An architectural jewel in the downtown Detroit skyline has been cleaned, rehabbed and restored to grandeur after years of abandonment and is now officially reopened as upscale apartments, hotel rooms and soon-to-come restaurants.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joined Thursday with Detroit businessman Dan Gilbert and a jubilant crowd to celebrate the completion, by Gilbert’s real estate firm Bedrock, of the $317 million redevelopment of the 38-story Book Tower (built in 1926) and attached 13-story Book Building (built in 1917).
The Italian Renaissance-style buildings, 1265 Washington Blvd., had been vacant since 2009 and slowly deteriorating, until Bedrock purchased them in 2015 and commenced a full rehab and conversion from mostly office space to housing and hospitality.
The Book property is now 229 high-end apartments and a 117-unit ROOST Apartment Hotel. As many as three restaurants could open in the future, including a planned French restaurant and a Japanese restaurant and sake pub. There is also a lobby cocktail bar and a rooftop bar.
Gilbert, 61, who has made few public appearances since a 2019 stroke, was the opening speaker at the outdoor ribbon-cutting event. The event took place just outside the Book Building on a section of Washington Boulevard. Gilbert stood to deliver his address and received a standing ovation.
“Today’s event is about so much more than a ribbon-cutting,” Gilbert said. “It’s about breathing new life into one of Detroit’s most visible and historic landmarks, one that had been left neglected for far too long.”
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan recalled how it was only two decades ago that empty yet illustrious downtown buildings were still being demolished, “and everybody assumed that the Book Building would go next, and the David Stott building would go, that these old icons of Detroit were all doomed for the wrecking ball.
“What changed the direction of this city was Dan Gilbert, who saw opportunity and hope where everybody else saw blight.”
Whitmer also applauded Gilbert for inspiring others to save and redevelop buildings in Detroit.
“This magnificent 38-floor Detroit landmark has a new lease on life thanks to Bedrock real estate and all the hardworking women and men who installed plumbing, connected wires and breathed new life into every square foot of this beautiful building,” Whitmer said.
Bedrock also cleaned the tower’s once-grimy limestone facade and green copper roof, and restored numerous exterior ornaments, including decorative cornices, Corinthian columns and a dozen female sculptures.
The pièce de résistance is the building’s stunning three-story, marbled-arched atrium, which features a skylight containing more than 6,000 glass panels.
Randall Book, a grandson of Frank Book, one of the original co-developers, recalled how his grandfather once kept his office on the top floor of the tower, back when it was an office building.
“The first thing I’d like to say is how grateful I am for Dan and his vision to make this a reality,” he said. “I never thought during my lifetime that I would see this.”
Bedrock is the most prolific developer in Detroit and has restored numerous downtown buildings since 2010, when Gilbert relocated his mortgage company, now known as Rocket Mortgage, to downtown from Livonia. He is widely credited with ushering in downtown Detroit’s resurgence in the 2010s.
For the Book Tower’s new apartments, 20% are set aside at reduced rents for those with below-median incomes.
The market-rate rents start at just over $1,500 per month for studio units, $1,810 per month for one-bedrooms and $3,110 for two-bedrooms, according to the Book Tower website.
The buildings were originally designed by architect Louis Kamper and constructed as office buildings for the Book brothers, a trio of real estate investors who also built the nearby Book-Cadillac hotel.
For the redevelopment, Bedrock hired New York-based architecture firm ODA for architecture and interior renovation, Detroit-based Brinker/Christman for construction and the Kraemer Design Group for historic preservation.
The project was one of four Bedrock projects in downtown that were approved in 2018 for $618 million Transformational Brownfield in tax-capture development incentives.
The others are the under-construction Hudson’s site, the expansion of the One Campus Martius office building (formerly known as the Compuware Building) and the still-to-come Development at Cadillac Square.
Bedrock purchased the Book Building and Tower in 2015 from Vancouver, British Columbia-based AKNO Properties.
The last previous tenant, Bookies Tavern, left in 2009. Bookies Tavern was owned by members of the Lambrecht family, who also once owned the entire Book Tower from 1988 until 2006, according to Free Press archives. Bookies Tavern is now known as Bookies Bar & Grille at 2208 Cass Ave.
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Contact JC Reindl: 313-222-6631 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jcreindl