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'Downtown Detroit is booming.' Major construction projects breathing new life into city

Major construction boom breathes new life into Downtown Detroit
Posted at 5:24 PM, Mar 22, 2023

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Downtown Detroit is undergoing a major transformation thanks to a boom in construction projects.

In fact, the city center is set to have one of the busiest years as it creates more jobs and recreational opportunities.

A proud metro Detroiter, Mike Schlenke has been working in the construction industry for over 40 years.

"As a matter of fact, I started my career out building the Riverfront apartments just up the street here," said Schlenke, Sr. Project Manager, L.S. Brinker.

Schlenke is currently working on the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park.

He recalls in the early 1980s, Downtown Detroit was a lot of fun before the economy tanked.

And now the granddad of four is excited to see the area thrive all over again.

"What I want to do is I want to bring my grandkids here to be the first kids to play on the play structures here. It's going to be a destination; it's going to be a destination no different than Central Park in New York," he said.

Set to open next year, Marc Wallace from Detroit Riverfront Conservancy says the 22-acre park will dramatically transform the city's Riverfront into one of the best in the country.

"Detroit Riverfront Conservancy has been leading the transformation of our waterfronts for 20 years this year, and we are so excited. And of those 20 years, this is the busiest year we've had of construction," said Wallace, president & CEO of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy.

On the east side of the Riverfront, the Uniroyal Promenade is expected to open in the fall. This will connect Gabriel Richard Park with Mt. Elliott Park.

While the Southwest Greenway just west of the Michigan Central Depot will feed into the Riverwalk when it's completed this May.

Both projects will extend the Riverwalk by 5.5 miles.

"The fact that we will fill this up with 1000s of people every single day, means these buildings are going to be transformed into new residential units, you are going to see new restaurants and businesses attracted to these amenities," said Wallace.

And many other new developments are also shaping up here.

After seven years of reconstruction and over $300 million worth of renovation, the Book Tower in Downtown Detroit is getting ready to open its doors.

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Built-in 1926, the Book Tower was one of the tallest buildings in Detroit. Today, it remains one of the most architecturally renowned towers in the Midwest.
And that's why it's been an honor for proud Detroiter Brent White to be part of the crew that's bringing the tower back to life.

"I love it, to see people come down here, be able to enjoy it, because I've enjoyed it my whole life," said White, a construction worker.

According to Michigan Building Trades Council, over 14 construction projects are currently taking place in Downtown Detroit, with more than 4,000 workers on the job.

The nearly 700-foot-tall Hudson's site is another new development here in Downtown Detroit that's set to boost retail and living spaces.

In fact, the landmark's construction is expected to create 7,500 jobs alone. It's estimated to be completed by next year, and once built, it will be the second tallest building in Detroit after the Renaissance Center.

"Downtown Detroit is booming, every corner you go to there is something is going on. Every building has something that appears to be going on, there are plans in the works for so many projects that are out there, so this is going to be a prolonged renaissance to the city," said Schlenke.