Mayor Duggan: 'Visionary' Dan Gilbert Talked 6 Years Ago About Pitching GM to Move to Hudson's Site

April 15, 2024, 5:45 PM by  Allan Lengel

Renaissance Center (deposit photo)

Mayor Mike Duggan says billionaire mortgage mogul and real estate developer Dan Gilbert mentioned to him six years ago about pitching General Motors to move from the RenCen to the Hudson's Detroit Development site on Woodward Avenune in the heart of downtown.

At a press conference annoucing that GM is moving its headquarters in 2025 to the Hudson's site, Duggan said of Gilbert:

"I sat with him about six years ago and go through different projects and he says, 'I got something I want to  show you." He takes out a folder and he says, 'I'm gonna go pitch Mary Barra on the fact they should move the GM headquarters from the Renaissance Center to the Hudson's building when we build it."

"I said, 'Dan, they haven't been in the Renaissance Center that long, are they even looking for a new headquarters?

"He said, 'naw, they don't realize they need one yet...but I'm going to pitch them.'"

Mayor Duggan

"This is a true visionary because it's...a great solution for GM a great solution for Bedrock and a great solution for the city," Duggan said. "And only one person could have pulled it off, but I just want to say congratulations today to Dan Gilbert."

As part of the arrangement, Gilbert's Bedrock will work with GM to develop the RenCen.

Gilbert said Monday at the press conference: 

"From the begining we understood the significance of Hudson's to our city, which is why we designed it to be more than just a building. We built these buildings to be a destination celebrating Detroit during over the past century and strengthening that momentum for generations to come.

"Most importantly we wanted to be a place that would attract the best companies and the best talent from all over the world. Who knew we would attract the one from around the corner here?"

"Today I could not be more pleased to welcome General Motors to Hudson's Detroit GM represents more than just a new office anchor, it solidifies the company's commitment to the city they had called home for more than 100 years. And Hudson's is perfect for GM."

Dan Gilbert

He said the building will have state-of-the-art exhibition and meeting spaces, a luxury hotel, living amenities restaurants and bars and destination shopping.

GM will have a 15-year lease and be the anchor tenant.

The Detroit Free Press reports on the move:

But this move is a significant downsizing in the automaker's square footage. (GM President Mark) Reuss said GM will occupy the top two floors of the building, but commercial real estate brochures show each floor is just under 50,000 rentable square feet. At the RenCen, GM has access to 2.3 million square feet in office space.

"We don't know exactly how many people we're going to take from the RenCen, from Warren and populate this, because we're architecting the offices," Reuss said. He added that the GM corporate staff will be moving — top executives, along with finance, communications, legal staff and human resources.

Henry Ford II is credited with coming up with the concept of the Renaissance Center. It was meant to be a symbol of Detroit's rebirth after the city went through the 1967 Rebellion in which residential and commericial strips in the city were destroyed.

The first phase opened in 1976. It was always kind of a problematic building. It was daunting, hard to navigate inside and a fortress that was not easily accessible to pedestrians. Shops have come and gone.

GM bought it for pennies on the dollar in 1996 and moved its headquarters there from Midtown, a couple miles away. GM eventually made improvements and made it easier for pedestrians to access.

But the pandemic brought more problems. More people started working from home, which resulted in less retail business. The CVS there recently closed, which was not a good sign.

Report From Earlier Monday

General Motors Co. will move its headquarters from the Renaissance Center to the Hudson’s Detroit development on Woodward Avenue, a short walk, just north of the river, CEO Mary Barra announced Monday. 

The Hudson's site is expected to open later this year.

At the same time, Barra said GM will work with Dan Gilbert's real estate firm to redevelop the Renaissance Center. Gilbert's firm owns the Hudson's site. 

The Renaissance Center, which is almost a city onto itself, has seemed to suffer in recent years. Increasingly more people have been working at home, a trend that started during the pandemic. 


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