The big news around Detroit today is the groundbreaking on the Monroe Block. That's the two-block site adjacent to Campus Martius where Dan Gilbert and Bedrock plan an $830 million development to add 1.4 million square feet of housing, office, retail and public space.
On today's podcast, we discuss the Monroe Block's colorful history as a theater district, its mostly moribund present and its potentially very exciting future. Gilbert, through Bedrock Detroit, plans to build two new towers — a 35-story office tower, and a 17-story residential building — with a more than 1-acre central courtyard featuring landscaping, seating areas, a catwalk and retail and food amenities. It will incorporate Farmer Street, which bisects the Monroe Block, but close it off to vehicle traffic.
The architects were asked to adhere closely to good urban-design principles. The result is an attempt to connect different downtown districts, bring in a mix of uses and create vibrant open spaces. It’s something that a lot of downtown Detroit still lacks, frankly. Think of the relatively lifeless west side of downtown. Or the sea of surface parking lots that still comprise much of the CBD.