Skyscraper Wiki

The Renaissance Center (also known as the GM Renaissance Center and nicknamed the RenCen) is a group of seven connected skyscrapers in Downtown Detroit, Michigan, United States. The Renaissance Center complex is on the Detroit International Riverfrontand is owned by General Motors as its world headquarters. The central tower, the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center, is the third tallest all-hotel skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere. It has been the tallest building in Michigan since it was erected in 1977.

John Portman was the principal architect for the original design. The first phase consisted of a five-tower rosette rising from a common base. Four 39-story office towers surround the 73-story hotel rising from a square podium which includes a shopping center, restaurants, brokers, and banks. The first phase officially opened in March 1977. Portman's design brought renewed attention to city architecture, since it resulted in construction of the world's tallest hotel at the time. Two additional 21-story office towers (known as Tower 500 and Tower 600) opened in 1981. This type of complex has been termed a city within a city.

In 2004, General Motors completed a US$500 million renovation of the Class-A center as its world headquarters, which it had purchased in 1996. The renovation included the addition of the five-story Wintergarden atrium, which provides access to the International Riverfront. Architects for the renovation included Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Gensler, SmithGroup, and Ghafari Associates. Work continued in and around the complex until 2005. Renaissance Center totals 5,552,000 square feet (515,800 m2) making it one of the world's largest commercial complexes.

In July 2015, the complex was re-branded as "The GMRENCEN." Its logo was modernized and "Reflecting a New Detroit" was introduced as the new tagline. A photo-journalistic advertising campaign launched to shine a spotlight on the people in Detroit who make remarkable contributions to the city.


A naval band performs in front of the Renaissance Center in August 2015.

The idea was first conceived by Henry Ford II, the Ford Motor Company Chairman of the time. In 1970, to bring his idea to life, Ford teamed up with other business leaders to form the Detroit Renaissance. This was a private non-profit development organization which Ford headed in order to stimulate building activity and revitalize the economy of Detroit. Henry Ford II sold the concept of the RenCen to the City and community leaders. Detroit Mayor Roman Gribbs touted the project as a complete rebuilding from bridge to bridge, referring to the area between the Ambassador Bridge, that connects Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, and the MacArthur Bridge, which connects the city with Belle Isle Park.

The Detroit Renaissance announced the first phase of construction in 1971, receiving primary financing from the Ford Motor Company. It soon became the world's largest private development with an anticipated 1971 cost of $500 million. The principal architect was John Portman, the architect behind the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel and the Peachtree Center in Atlanta, Georgia; the Embarcadero Center in San Francisco, California; and the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, California.

The city within a city arose. The first phase of Renaissance Center opened on July 1, 1976. For phase I, the facade of the first five towers was covered with 2,000,000 square feet (186,000 m2) of glass, and used about 400,000 cubic yards (310,000 m3) of concrete. This did not include the additional glass used for the atriums. It also cost $337 million to construct, employing 7,000 workers. Other phases that included residences, additional office and retail space were never constructed. 

When the Renaissance Center opened, the cylindrical central tower was originally the flagship of Westin Hotels. The top three floors of the hotel hosted an upscale restaurant, The Summit, that rotated to allow a 360 degree view. The shopping center in the podium originally housed high-end boutiques, but now contains a greater complement of restaurants in the retail mix.

In 1977, managed by Western International Hotels, the central hotel tower of the Renaissance Center opened as the Detroit Plaza Hotel. It became the world's tallest all-hotel skyscraper surpassing its architectural twin, the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel in Atlanta. The hotel was later renamed The Westin Hotel Renaissance Center Detroit. In 1986, it was surpassed in height by The Westin Stamford in Singapore. Since, the Renaissance Center's central tower has held the distinction as the tallest all-hotel skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere.

On April 15, 1977, Henry Ford II and Detroit mayor Coleman Young unveiled a plaque commemorating the private investors whose funds made the project possible. Later that evening, 650 business and society leaders attended a benefit to celebrate the Renaissance Center's formal dedication. The money raised from the $300-per-couple tickets went to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. 

GM World exhibit inside the Renaissance Center

In 1980, Detroit hosted the Republican National Convention, during this event both presidential nominee Ronald Reagan and former President Gerald Ford stayed at the Renaissance Center.

The "city within a city" concept was duplicated in the suburb of Southfield, when the Southfield Town Center office complex - with five inter-connected golden skyscrapers and an overall area of 2,200,000 square feet (200,000 m2) - was constructed from 1975 to 1989. In the ensuing years, the Renaissance Center would face competition from the growing suburban office market.

In 1987, the elevated Detroit People Mover transit line began operation with a stop at the Renaissance Center. 

In 1996, General Motors purchased the complex and moved its world headquarters from what is now the historic Cadillac Place state office complex in the New Center district, to the Renaissance Center, in downtown Detroit. Meanwhile, Ford Motor Company maintained offices in one of the towers in the center. Before the acquisition, Sibley's Shoes had its headquarters in the center.

Architects' initial design for the Renaissance Center focused on creating secure interior spaces, while its design later expanded and improved to connect with the exterior spaces and waterfront through a reconfigured interior, open glass entryways, and a winter garden. By 2004, GM completed an extensive $500 million renovation of the Renaissance Center. This included a $100 million makeover for the hotel. Among GM's first actions was to remove the concrete berms facing Jefferson Avenue. The renovation includes a lighted glass walkway which encircles the interior mezzanine for ease of navigation, while the addition of the winter garden provides riverfront access and a view of Canada. A covered skyway over Jefferson Avenue connects to the Millender Center, Courtyard by Marriott - Downtown Detroit, and Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.

In July 2010, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan announced plans to lease 435,245 square feet (40,435.6 m2) of Tower 500 and Tower 600 and relocate 3,000 of its employees from its building in Southfield, Michigan.

In January 2015, General Motors announced its intent to renovate much of the complex to make it more inviting as a destination for visitors to Detroit.

In 2018, the GM World showroom was renovated.

The Renaissance Center is owned by General Motors. The hotel in the central tower is now managed by the Marriott hotel chain and is called the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center. The 1,298-room hotel is one of the largest operated by Marriott. The rooftop restaurant (which previously had revolved) received a $10 million renovation and was operated by The Epicurean Groups's Coach Insignia (closed in 2017). It served Coach wines, a product of the Fisher family whose legacy includes Fisher Body, a name which is part of GM history.

The Renaissance Center's renovation provides for the prospect of continued development and restorations throughout the city. Architectural critics have touted the city's architecture as among America's finest.

In its first year of operation it generated over $1 billion in economic growth for the downtown. Detroit Renaissance continued to interact with the city, by contributing to a variety of projects within the downtown area in the ensuing decades.


The centerpiece is the 73-story 727-foot (221.5 m) luxury hotel with 1,246 rooms and 52 suites (1298 total guest rooms). Its height is measured from its main Wintergarden entrance on Atwater Street which faces the International Riverfront where the complex measures 14 feet (4.3 m) taller. Entirely owned by General Motors, the complex has 5,552,000 square feet (515,800 m2) of space. The main Renaissance Center complex rises from a 14-acre (5.7 ha) site. The complex is designed in the modern architectural style with glass as a main material.

Famous for its cylindrical design, the central hotel tower's diameter is 188 feet (57 m). A lighted glass walkway radiates the mezzaninelevel and encircles the base of cylindrical hotel tower for ease of navigation. This ringed glass walkway is about 12 feet (3.7 m) wide and has a circumference of approximately 660 feet (200 m) or about one-eighth of a mile around. The ringed walkway's diameter is approximately 210 feet (64 m). It links to several other walkways in the complex. The five-story Wintergarden atrium leads into the central area which has an eight-story atrium lobby with rounded concrete balconies and terraces. Floors 71 through 73 included the Coach Insignia (closed in 2017), an upscale restaurant with a lounge area/observation floor where the view extends for over 30 miles (48.3 km). The hotel has no floors labeled 7, 8, or 13. The hotel features a major conference center with 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2) of meeting space including a Renaissance Ballroom for up to 2,200 guests with 26,000 square feet (2,400 m2) for events, one of the largest in the United States.

John Portman designed the five-building rosette with interior spaces. In 1977, its central tower opened as the tallest hotel in the world. It remains the tallest all hotel skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere. The smaller cylinders on sides of all the towers house the elevators. The four surrounding 39-story office towers (100–400) each reach 522 feet (159 m) and have a total of 2,200,000 square feet (204,400 m2) of space. Each 39-story tower has a base five-story podium structure with 165,000 square feet (15,300 m2) for retail space for a total of 660,000 square feet (61,000 m2). A portion of the central atrium area houses GM World, a showcase for GM vehicles. Two 21-story towers (500–600), designed by Portman and constructed in 1981, reach 339 feet (103 m). GM gained control of Towers 500 and 600 in 2001. Tower 500 has 307,300 square feet (28,550 m2) of office space and an additional 14,485 square feet (1,350 m2) of retail space. Tower 600 has 304,200 square feet (28,260 m2) of office space and an additional 35,730 square feet (3,320 m2) of retail space.

Towers 100 and 200 front Jefferson Avenue. Towers 300 and 400 are on the main Wintergarden/Atwater Street entrance facing the Riverfront. The GM Renaissance Conference Center is located on the second floor of tower 300.

In December 2001, the General Motors unveiled the Wintergarden retail atrium. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, it rises 103 feet (31 m) tall at its highest point opening direct access to the International Riverfront. In addition, the atrium contains 150,000 square feet (14,000 m2) of retail space and 40,000 square feet (3,700 m2) of contiguous main floor exhibit space which was used by the media during Super Bowl XL.[13]

The design is consistent with the themes of Brutalist architecture, especially in the heavy massing of concrete on the lower floors, but the 2001 renovation has softened those features.