Bedrock tabs Detroit firm ODA as Book Tower architect

ODA, hired as the design architect for the Book Tower project, plans to "honor the vision" of the Book Brothers, for whom the tower is named. Artist rendering courtesy Bedrock.
The Book Tower is now the most ambitious adaptive reuse project in the portfolio of Detroit-based real estate firm ODA. Image courtesy Bedrock.

The Book Brothers, for whom the historic Book Tower is named, grew up on Washington Boulevard and imagined a building that would endure as a landmark for generations while serving their community in a range of ways.

Officials at Bedrock Detroit, which now owns the building, are determined to carry out that original vision.

Bedrock took another step in that direction recently, appointing ODA as design architect, making Book Tower the most ambitious adaptive reuse project in the Detroit-based real estate firm’s portfolio.

Known throughout the global architecture community for their innovative work on historically significant renovations like Rotterdam’s POSTKantoor and New York City’s 10 Jay, Bedrock Director of Communications Gabrielle Poshadlo said ODA will “apply their expertise to designing a mix of residential, hospitality, retail and office space at the Book Tower.

“ODA’s plans for the building include multiple points of entry, which will improve pedestrian flow and make the offices, retail spaces and hospitality offerings accessible from all directions,” Poshadlo said.

Leveraging modern uses
Melissa Dittmer, Bedrock’s chief design officer, called the Book Tower building an “iconic part of Detroit’s skyline” for nearly a century. She said the the “meticulous exterior restoration process” made it clear the company needed to partner with an architect that “understands how to leverage modern uses in a way that preserves the unique historic details that has endeared this building to Detroiters for generations.”

ODA, hired as the design architect for the Book Tower project, plans to “honor the vision” of the Book Brothers, for whom the tower is named. Artist rendering courtesy Bedrock.

“We are excited to work with ODA to add to the momentum on Washington Boulevard, which is already home to thriving local businesses and a well-established residential community with destination dining and hospitality options,” Dittmer said.

The 486,760-square-foot structure, which was designed by Louis Kemper in 1916 in an Italian Renaissance style, was originally built as an office tower and took a decade to complete. Acquired by Bedrock in 2015, the extensive exterior restoration was recently completed, including the replacement of 2,483 historically accurate windows and full restoration of the ornamental cornice complete with caryatid statues.

A historic art glass skylight will be brought back to its original splendor as part of Bedrock’s work with ODA.

Strategic role
ODA’s strategic role is to update and expand on Book Tower’s programming and existing structures, creating nearly 500,000 square feet of downtown residential, hospitality, retail and office space. The restoration of this 38-story landmark will provide an opportunity to create a cohesive civic vision for Washington Boulevard; bringing people, place, and events together. The building’s residents and guests will share amenity spaces throughout the different levels as well as awe-inspiring entertaining spaces on the roof of the Book Building portion of the property.

“The objective is to add a forward-looking mixed-use program to Detroit’s growing downtown that will meet the needs of businesses, visitors and residents alike,” said Eran Chen, founding principal of ODA. “Bedrock has been an important catalyst, understanding the important role that architecture plays in the systemic evolution of cities. Restoring, designing and engineering the conversion of a legacy structure requires the utmost reverence for the remarkable history of the Book Tower, but also the vision and ambition to deliver a civic hub that complements the movement happening in downtown Detroit.”

ODA’s plans include a blend of public and private space, including a variety of public amenities in the form of retail, galleries, restaurants and cafe – many with open sight lines to Washington Boulevard and Grand River Avenue – adding to the city’s pedestrian experience. Accessible from multiple sides, the building will once again serve as a point of engagement in the city center, a link between Grand Circus Park, all the way to the Cobo Center. Detroiters will be offered a renewed take on a building full of memories, plus the chance to enjoy several modern leisure spaces in the building.

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Brad Kadrich
Brad Kadrich is an award-winning journalist with more than 30 years’ experience, most recently as an editor/content coach for the Observer & Eccentric Newspapers and Hometown Life, managing 10 newspapers in Wayne and Oakland counties. He was born in Detroit, grew up in Warren and spent 15 years in the U.S. Air Force, primarily producing base newspapers and running media and community relations operations.