Renovations underway at former Detroit Free Press building

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — A long-vacant Art Deco gem in the city's downtown is in the midst of a reboot. 

The Detroit News on Thursday got a glimpse of the at least $69.6 million redesign of the former Detroit Free Press Building, which will convert the empty historical structure into a residential tower with ground-floor retail and two floors of office space.

“We do have several buildings that stand out,” said Jim Ketai, CEO and managing partner of Bedrock, which owns the building. “This is a building to add to our collection of standout ones. We’re getting excited to bring it alive and have activity going on in the building.”

Turner Construction, currently at work on renovations of the former Detroit Free Press building in Detroit, offered a media tour of the building on Thursday, June 28, 2018.

When finished, it will have more than 100 residential units, including studio, one- and two-bedroom spaces.  

People can be moving in as early as the first quarter of 2020, Ketai said.

The former newspaper building at 321 W. Lafayette was bought in late 2016 by Dan Gilbert's Bedrock, which controls more than 90 downtown properties. The building was home to the Detroit Free Press from 1925 to 1998. The structure has been empty since the newspaper moved out in 1998. 

The building, designed by famed architect Albert Kahn, was constructed in 1924 and could be re-opened by 2020. 

The six-story building has a 14-story tower in the middle. Ground-floor retail is planned, as well as office space on the second and third floors. The remaining floors will be residential.

When finished, the former Detroit Free Press building will have more than 100 residential units, including studio, one- and two-bedroom spaces.

The 276,183-square-foot building had been rendered “functionally obsolete” from years of neglect, according to documents previously prepared by Bedrock officials, in an application for brownfield tax credits to offset environmental costs for building cleanup.

The project comes in under the $75 million threshold that triggers the city's community benefits ordinance, which requires developers of large projects to negotiate benefits with a neighborhood advisory group. But Bedrock agreed to abide by the terms of the law to seek community feedback and address concerns.