All posts in Preservation

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Parking Over Preservation

Historic Detroit newspaper building will be razed for 12 parking spots
A curious thing is happening in downtown Detroit. An iconic building that once housed an early-20th-century local newspaper is slated for demolition and set to be replaced by 12 parking spots.  You read that right, just 12 parking spots.  The three-story brick structure at 550 West Fort Street initially served as the headquarters of Detroit Saturday Night from 1914 to 1929. It was designed by Smith, Hinchman & Grylls, one of the oldest architecture firms in the U.S., now known as SmithGroup. Last week, the Detroit City Council voted to deny the building its own historic designation, which in turn allows a proposal by local developer, Emmet Morten, Jr., to move forward. The building will now be razed in order to provide more parking for a luxury condominium nearby. It’s long been part of the developer’s plans to expand its work in the Fort Shelby Hotel historic district, which houses the Fort Shelby Residences on the site of a demolished 18th-century military base. Preservation groups didn’t think the city would actually allow the small news building to go down, but over the last year, the City Council and the Historic District  Commission began showing signs that the structure wasn’t worth saving, as it lies just outside the historic district. Advocacy organization Preservation Detroit stepped in about 10 months ago and mustered over 3,600 signatures for a petition to protect and rehabilitate the building for future use.  This morning, protestors gathered outside the old Detroit Saturday Night building to ask the City Council to reconsider last week’s vote. According to the Detroit Metro Times, the event was organized by Detroiters for Parking Reform, a group calling for a moratorium on building new parking spaces:
“We have more parking spaces downtown than ever before, with nearly 40 percent of land in downtown Detroit devoted to this use," the group wrote to city council. "But somehow, we are convinced we need 12 more spaces where the historic Detroit Saturday Night Building stands today. This is a building that might otherwise be redeveloped for housing, business, and retail space. World-class cities are not defined by how much parking they have."
Detroit Saturday Night was published from 1907 to 1939. The news outlet moved into a bigger location, an Art Deco building also designed by Smith, Hinchman & Grylls, after 15 years on West Fort Street. 
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Building on the Past

Controversial expansion to Ottawa's Chateau Laurier rejected for now
The owner of what’s arguably the most important historic hotel in Canada wants to expand its northwestern backside with a modern addition that’s met with extremely severe criticism online.  Designed by Peter Clewes, principal of the Toronto-based architectsAlliance, the bulky, seven-story structure would bring 147 new rooms to the iconic Fairmont Chateau Laurier, a 107-year-old structure in Ottawa near Parliament Hill. Late last month, the City Council’s Committee of Adjustment rejected the request by property owner Larco Investments for a reduced rear yard setback on the addition. The denial effectively prevents them from breaking ground on the project. Built in 1912 and originally named after the First Grand Trunk Railway by then-owner Charles Melville Hays, the limestone-clad structure spans an impressive 660,000-square-feet, boasts 429 rooms, and sports a number of iconic turrets. It’s located in a section of Major’s Hill Park, a grand landscape in downtown Ottawa along the Rideau Canal. Some opponents of the expansion project say it would hinder views of the surrounding cityscape, much of which is on federal land. In the September 27 setback hearing, the committee acknowledged that these heritage features would be threatened and as one city council member also noted in the Ottawa Citizen, that the design isn’t compatible with the “shapes and materials” of the hotel. All these factors were outlined in the committee’s final decision: 
“The committee is of the opinion that the approval of (the) variance would allow for a new build that does not respect the landscape and character of the heritage features of the historic properties that surround the site, specifically those of the Rideau Canal, Major’s Hill Park and the Parliamentary Precinct, in contravention of the policies currently in place for compatible design and protection of views to these sites.” 
But Clewes, who has attempted to explain his design decision over the last few years, said the addition was imagined with the utmost respect for the historic site. In a 2016 interview with Maclean's, he claimed the hotel’s use of limestone and deeply incised windows was considered in the new project in order to complement the existing building.  “We’ve chosen to reinterpret that... but in a much more contemporary manner, which is a series of vertical windows in a somewhat whimsical pattern—some have likened it to a bar code,” he said. “What we’re trying to say is, look, the hotel is the most important building here, and we were simply trying to respond to that.”  If Clewes’s proposal was realized, it would be built on the site of a former parking garage located at the rear of the hotel. To signify the separation between the historic building and its contemporary predecessor, the architect added in a glazed structure so that “there’s a very clear distinction between what is old and what is new.”  But it’s not enough. Larco Investments has already secured heritage and site-plan approvals from the city council but has failed in trying to minimize the required setback for an addition to the hotel property. The reduction, according to Ottawa Citizen, would project out towards the park and “represents an increase in density on the site.” It's expected that Larco Investments will appeal the decision with the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.
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Vidiot Box

Cult-favorite L.A. video store Vidiots will reopen in a renovated theater
Like the LP and the hardcover book, the DVD is a form of media subject to unpredictable waves of popularity and stagnation, never to be officially put to rest. However, it may come as a shock that, in 2019, a video store housing more than 50,000 DVDs, BluRay discs, and VHS tapes is in the works. The owners of cult-favorite Vidiots, a “one-of-kind hub for film lovers, filmmakers, and everyone curious about cinema” that first opened in 1985 in Santa Monica and closed in 2017, announced that they will reopen next fall as a store, movie theater, and event space in the youthful northeastern neighborhood of Eagle Rock. The nonprofit will be housed in the former Eagle Theatre, a 200-seat independent theatre built in 1929 that shut down in 2001 and has since operated as a church. “Vidiots relaunching on the cusp of our 35th birthday," said Vidiots executive director Maggie Mackay, "is a triumph for Los Angeles film history and cements the legacy of Vidiots founders Patty Polinger and Cathy Tauber as innovators in L.A. film culture. Bringing the Eagle Theatre back and providing L.A. with a long-needed new film space is thrilling.” The original theater space will be renovated and equipped with state-of-the-art sound and projection, as well as a second 50-seat screening room that will host screenings, workshops, and receptions, and a storefront from which its vast collection of film materials will be sold. According to renderings, the original 1980s-era Vidiots sign will be hung above a renovated marquee, which will continue to function as a space for advertising upcoming movies and events. Vidiots secured funds for the theater space with the support of development partner Jeffrey Birkmeyer and “founding members,” which include actors Mark Duplass, Katie Aselton, and director Jason Reitman, who will be donating a 35mm projection system. Until it opens roughly a year from now, Vidiots will continue to remotely host events in the recently-opened Alamo Drafthouse in Downtown Los Angeles, and the Bootleg, a concert venue in Historic Filipinotown.
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Bigger is Better

Seattle Asian Art Museum will reopen in February after a two year expansion
The Seattle Asian Art Museum will reopen to the public in February 2020 after a two-year, $56 million renovation and expansion project. The museum, which has not undergone any major work since it was first built in 1933, is in the midst of an extensive renovation by LMN Architects to both secure the building’s aging structure and reopen the facilities as a modernized exhibition space. The Asian Art Museum will reopen with a new debut, Boundless: Stories of Asian Art, and the special exhibition Be/longing: Contemporary Asian Art. Two full days of free events will also accompany the shows on February 8 and 9, 2020, with tickets available starting in December. The museum is renowned for housing one of the most prominent collections of Asian art outside the continent itself. Its galleries display work spanning the 1st to 21st century and hailing from China, Japan, Korea, India, the Himalayas, and Southeast Asia. The Asian Art Museum is in Volunteer Park and makes up one-third of the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), and has occupied its art deco home since 1994. Prior to that, the 1930s-era building functioned as the original location of SAM until its move downtown.  In addition to preserving the historic sandstone facade, landscaping, and fountains, the museum has significantly expanded its gallery and programing facilities. The expansion includes a new 2,600-square-foot gallery as well as new education, conservation, and community spaces on the building's east side. The existing Fuller Garden Court, the museum's central point, will be renovated and connected to a new park-facing lobby. The galleries will also receive an upgraded lighting system that mimics natural daylight.  Taking advantage of its location, the glass-enclosed Park Lobby on the east side of the museum will overlook Olmsted’s Volunteer Park. Reinforcing the building’s relationship to the park was one of the museum’s major goals. “The design represents the seamless integration of the building’s spectacular site," said LMN in a statement, "with the museum’s mission for the 21st century: to showcase Asian art in conjunction with contemporary educational and conservation spaces."  As one of only a handful of museums specializing in Asian art in the U.S., the expanded public programming, exhibition, and conservation capabilities of the museum will be a huge cultural asset to the city. “With the completion of this project, we unveil new spaces to connect the museum’s extraordinary collection of Asian art to our lives and experiences,” said Amada Cruz, Illsley Ball Nordstrom director and CEO of SAM, in a press statement. 
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Nickelodeon Lost

L.A.'s historic Earl Carroll Theatre will reopen as an entertainment complex
The Earl Carroll Theatre has gone by a lot of names since it first opened in Downtown Hollywood in 1938: Moulin Rouge, Hullabaloo, Kaleidoscope, Aquarius Theatre, Longhorn Theatre, and Nickelodeon on Sunset, to name a few. Since Nickelodeon relocated two years ago and left the building without a tenant, the theater community has eagerly awaited the renovation of the building to its former glory. On September 25, it was announced that Thaddeus Hunter Smith, one of the former owners of the nearby Fonda Theatre, and business partner Brian Levian, had signed a ten-year lease with the intention of not only restoring the building’s original facilities, but also transforming the site into an entertainment complex, with spaces for concerts, stage shows, movie premieres, and other specialized events. “We’re thrilled to be revitalizing the theatre, returning it to its original Streamline Moderne design, and bringing all kinds of wonderful entertainment experiences to locals and visitors alike,” said Smith. Working in close collaboration with preservationists and Hollywood historians, the renovation of the theatre will include the renovation and recreation of many of the building’s original details, including a 20-foot neon depiction of Beryl Wallace, Carroll’s girlfriend and muse, that once hung above the street entrance. Because it “exemplifies the optimism and grandeur of pre-war Hollywood,” according to the Los Angeles Conservancy, the building was designated a Historic-Cultural Monument in December 2016. It was originally designed by Gordon B. Kaufmann for director and producer Earl Carroll as a supper club and performance theatre, both of which were once world-famous for their over-the-top presentations. According to the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, the theatre hosted shows “on a massive stage with a 60-foot wide double revolving turntable and staircase plus swings that could be lowered from the ceiling,” while the supper club “featured a chorus of 60 girls singing and dancing while patrons dined in style.” The theatre is currently owned by developer Essex Property Trust, which first nominated the building for historic-cultural landmark status and has already begun construction on Essex Hollywood, a mixed-use development with 200 apartment units on the opposite side of the site. The Earl Carroll Theatre is slated to reopen to the public in late 2020.
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A Case for Conservation

The Getty Trust will invest $100M in a 10-year plan to save global artifacts
In a statement of its dedication to conservation efforts, the J. Paul Getty Trust has announced a $100 million investment to support the preservation of global antiquities. The funding will provide the baseline for Ancient Worlds Now: A Future for the Past, a broader incentive focusing on the scholarship, conservation, and exhibition of increasingly fading antiquities in an age where a number of factors pose a threat to their safety. “In an age of resurgent populism, sectarian violence, and climate change, the future of the world’s common heritage is at risk,” said James Cuno, president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust.  “Cultural heritage embodies a global community united by a common need to make things of beauty and usefulness and to compose stories and rituals about humanity’s place in the world. We will launch with urgency and build momentum for years to come. This work must start now, before more cultural heritage is neglected, damaged, or destroyed. Much is at stake.” The initiative presents a notable expansion beyond the focus areas of ancient Greece and Rome that have remained at the forefront of Getty’s funding until now. A global expansion into new territories like South and Central America, Asia, and Africa will ensure that conservation efforts are as comprehensive as possible. While Ancient Worlds Now: A Future for the Past will take a number of forms during its 10-year timeline, one of the biggest components will be increasing conservation efficiency by utilizing local talent. The program will train local conservators and specialists from around the world to work on-site, eliminating the need for Getty employees to manage individual projects. Additional plans include support for digital mapping of excavations, traveling research seminars, and expanded upcoming exhibitions at Los Angeles's Getty Museum highlighting the ancient classical world. Getty plans to partner with major global cultural and educational institutions as well as government organizations and private sector entities in order to maximize the impact of the project. A cross-disciplinary focus will be enacted through the involvement of Getty’s four programs—The Getty Foundation, Getty Research Institute, Getty Conservation Institute, and the J. Paul Getty Museum. As Getty continues to engage its partnerships, an official program launch is slated for summer 2020; the initiative is expected to last through 2030 and beyond.
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Place Your Bets

Last home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright will be auctioned off
As impossible as it may sound, Frank Lloyd Wright is credited as the architect of over 532 structures throughout the world. His refusal to retire, even at the end of his life at 91, led to the design of some of his most beloved works, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Price Tower, and the Marin County Civic Center. On September 19, it was announced that a sale through Heritage Auctions will be held for the Norman Lykes House, the very last building Wright ever designed. On a rocky desert bluff at the edge of Arizona’s Phoenix Mountain Preserve, the Norman Lykes House—also known as the Circular Sun House—represents a culmination of so many of Wright’s signature design gestures: it is airy and curvilinear like his later works, yet it is also long and low to the ground akin to his earlier Prairie homes. It is reportedly only one of fourteen circular homes the architect designed, and might be the only one to feature a crescent-shaped pool enclosed by a cylindrical wall punctured by circles. Smooth concrete blocks and built-in handcrafted Philippine mahogany furniture constitutes the majority of the home’s material palette. “It's not just that it’s a Frank Lloyd Wright home that makes it sellable,” said Jack Luciano, a partner with the Heritage Agency, “but that it’s a Frank Lloyd Wright house that is livable." Wright designed the home in 1959 for clients Norman and Amy Lykes, and his apprentice John Rattenbury was appointed to oversee the project during its eight years of construction. In 1994, Rattenbury was invited back to the home to oversee major changes, including the enlargement of the master bedroom (which reduced the number of bedrooms from five to three) and the conversion of its former workshop into a home theatre. Though there will be no minimum bid set on the property, it is expected to exceed its most recent purchase of $2.6 million. The winner of the 3,100-square-foot home will also receive all of Wright’s furniture currently on the property. “We want to make sure the person that buys this house maintains the integrity of the home, remodels it, keeps it and loves it just like the former two owners have,” said Luciano. Interested buyers and agents can attend the auction within the home on October 16.
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Desert Devastation

Border wall construction could destroy 22 archaeological sites across Arizona
A new 123-page report by the National Park Service (NPS) has detailed the potential loss of ancient artifacts at the southern border as the United States continues to construct an extensive border wall. The culmination of a project conducted by NPS archaeologists at Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the report highlights up to 22 endangered archaeological sites along a short stretch of the wall's path. The report, obtained by The Washington Post via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), is especially significant because of its authorship; the internal report shows concern coming directly from a sector of the federal government. The Organ Pipe Cactus area, which is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, received U.S. National Monument status in 1937. The area covers 330,688 acres of desert land southwest of Phoenix, and the 11.3-mile strip along the border has already seen significant physical damage from increased traffic of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents using all-terrain vehicles. The proposed plan to replace the existing 5-foot-tall vehicle barrier with a 30-foot illuminated steel wall has the potential to cause irreparable damage to archaeological fragments spanning the area’s 16,000 years of inhabitation. Concerns also stem from the ecological implications of dropping such a towering structure in a designated biosphere reserve. Environmentalists have repeatedly fought the federal government’s plans to run the wall through protected areas like the this, citing impositions on wildlife migration and the neglect of critically endangered species. Of particular concern is the Quitobaquito Springs area, an oasis 200 feet from the barrier that is inhabited by a number of threatened and declining species. The identification of these risks comes at a time when CBP is scrambling to complete 500 miles of barrier before the 2020 election at the request of President Trump. As the president continues to share the wall’s progress on social media, his administration continues to fight off lawsuits over construction on protected lands. Construction on the Organ Pipe Cactus reserve-area border wall officially began last month, as construction geared up for part of a 43-mile fence span that also cuts through Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Regufe. Kevin Dahl, Arizona’s senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, described how the time constraints are eliminating steps in the careful process of protecting Arizona’s archaeological sites: “Archaeology takes time, and they have a deadline,” Dahl told The Washington Post. “Putting a wall there is insane. This is just one more reason why ramming this wall through, using illegal, unconstitutional money, is damaging to these public resources. We’re destroying what the wall is supposed to protect.”
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Literary Lodgings

Historic Hollywood library converted into emergency homeless shelter
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has treated the city’s homeless crisis as a high priority since he first took office in 2013. A Bridge Home, one of Garcetti projects developed in collaboration with City Councilmember David Ryu, was launched in April of last year in response to a new state law that enables cities to construct a relatively expedient building type known as “bridge housing” to provide shelters for the region’s homeless female population. For its planners, this has meant applying a $20 million budget to the construction of an additional 222 units of bridge housing across the city’s 15 City Council districts within the first two years of the program. After 10 months of construction, the Gardner Street Women’s Bridge Housing Center, the seventh bridge housing project to date, opened in Hollywood inside a former library on September 16. Originally built in 1958, the Honnold & Rex-designed Will & Ariel Durant Branch Library required very little transformation to become the permanent home of a housing center. The main space was divided to provide the majority of the building’s services, including beds for 30 women, bathrooms, a communal kitchen, and support services, while the original front desk and central clock were left in place. “The fact we were able to salvage this building, keep its historic integrity and help meet the crisis of our time is beautiful,” commented Ryu. To ensure that its occupants feel safe, the original outdoor spaces are now gated, the entire facility is staffed by licensed clinical social workers, all of whom are women, and many of its public spaces will soon host various skill training services. While some of the other shelters completed through the program have more beds and amenities—The Bread Yard St. Andrew’s offers 100 beds in the nearby Chesterfield Square of South Los Angeles—the Gardner Street Center demonstrates the benefits of repurposing a building as opposed to constructing anew. Eighteen additional shelters are in the works throughout the city, and statistics suggest they can’t come soon enough; an estimated 18,000 women are currently experiencing homelessness citywide, with 2,500 in Hollywood alone. Critics of A Bridge Home have drawn a connection between the program and the restrictions the city council is currently reviewing that would limit where the city’s homeless population can live and sleep. One proposal being considered at the moment would disallow the homeless from sleeping with 500 feet of most public spaces.
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Lights, Camera, Action!

The concrete towers of the New York State Pavilion are ready for restoration
The iconic trio of Observation Towers in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in eastern Queens is getting a long-overdue upgrade. Restoration work on the monolith structures at the New York State Pavilion has reportedly begun according to Untapped Cities Built for the 1964 World’s Fair, it’s no secret that the Philip Johnson- and Richard Foster-designed project has suffered from serious neglect over the last several decades, but the push to restore it to its original glory is well underway. The Pavilion was added to the National Register of Historic Places in November 2009, and two years ago, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation announced its plans to fully restore the small site, making it a safe, walkable and event-centric destination for New Yorkers and tourists once again.  Queens Borough President Melinda Katz first dedicated $14.5 million towards the project in 2014, and then the New York City Council and the mayor put aside more funds, bringing the total to $24.1 million. While several smaller albeit major renovation efforts on other parts of the Pavilion have occurred since 2015, including repainting the old steel framework on the Tent of Tomorrow, the project to rehabilitate the three Observation Towers has been five years in the making and physical indicators are finally starting to show.  Set to take place over the next one-and-a-half years, work will include repairing all the deteriorating concrete found on the three, semi-stacked structures, as well as transitioning the finish on the plaza level floor from its current terrazzo-style linoleum to a methacrylate coating that will last longer. The external stairway on Tower 3—the tallest at 226 feet—and the internal stairs on all three stacked structures will be reconstructed. In addition, the waning suspension cables on each tower will be replaced and the electrical and drainage infrastructure in the basement of the site will be replaced and revamped respectively.  One of the most visible changes set to come to the New York State Pavilion includes the restoration of the architectural lighting both on the towers and on the circular Tent next door. Bright lights will shine down from the bottoms of the observation platforms and columns of all four structures, ensuring the Pavilion’s presence on the night skyline of Queens for years to come.  Construction is expected to wrap up in March 2021. 
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Shot Down

Oak Park's historic preservation commission rejects proposal for Frank Lloyd Wright visitor center
A major move shook up the world of all things Frank Lloyd Wright last week. The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust has long been planning to build a new Visitor and Education Center next to the modernist architect's hugely-popular Oak Park, Illinois, home and studio, but the proposal to move forward was unanimously rejected by the village’s Historic Preservation Commission.  To accommodate the potential 9,000-square-foot welcome space, the plan indicated that 925 Chicago Avenue, situated next door to the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, would have to be relocated or demolished as a last resort. That, and later additions at 931 Chicago Avenue, where Wright’s mother lived—and where the Trust currently operates the site from—also needed to be removed, restoring the building to its original footprint. This didn’t sit well with the Commission or the nearly 30 people who spoke out against the plan at the public hearing and vote on August 27.  In a statement following the vote, the Trust said it is considering its next steps: 
“As a 21st Century organization, the Trust is resolved in its mission to honor the innovative vision and legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright and to further contribute to the vitality of Oak Park as a living museum of significant architecture...Our commitment to design education will ensure that future generations value achievement in art, architecture and design for which Oak Park is renowned. To retain the value the Trust has added to Oak Park over the years, we must keep pace with standards of best practice in cultural tourism and education and set a tone of forward-thinking that Wright himself advocated.”
Located within the Frank Lloyd Wright-Prairie School of Architecture Historic District, the proposal was slated to set the Trust up for a new space that would filter the 90,000 people who visited the famous site each year. Visitors currently enter and exit the historic locale through a cramped garage shop, noted the Chicago Tribune A design for the visitor’s center had already been in the works for the past few years since the Trust purchase 925 Chicago Avenue. The organization held a local competition for the project and announced in June that Chicago-based John Ronan had won. His vision included a reception hall, gift shop, a ticketing and information area, and an outdoor plaza with green space. According to the Trust’s chairman Bob Mill, the proposal was selected between it had a “quiet presence within the site” and used materials that reference the surrounding neighborhood. Despite what appeared to be a thoughtful proposal, there was overwhelming opposition to the project. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, Landmarks Illinois, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy all denounced the scheme. The Village of Oak Park said the Trust must submit a new application with a different proposal through the Historic Preservation Commission.  Last week, the Trust issued a noted saying it will not appeal the commission's decision, but instead reconsider its plan.
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On Solid Bedrock

ODA tapped to transform Detroit’s historic Book Tower
ODA New York has been tapped as the design architect for the ambitious and high-profile adaptive reuse of Downtown Detroit’s historic Book Tower. ODA, known for historically significant renovations like Rotterdam’s Postkantoor and New York City’s 10 Jay Street, will apply their expertise of designing a mix of residential and hospitality, retail, and office space at the Book Tower. Originally designed by Louis Kemper in 1916 in an Italian renaissance style, the 486,760 square-foot structure took a decade to build. Acquired by Bedrock in 2015, a Detroit-based full-service real estate company, the recently completed extensive exterior restoration included replacing 2,483 historically-accurate windows and full restoration of the ornamental cornice with caryatid statues. “The Book Tower has been an iconic part of Detroit’s skyline for nearly a century," said Melissa Dittmer, Chief Design Officer at Bedrock. "and throughout the meticulous exterior restoration process it became clear we needed to partner with an architect that understands how to leverage modern uses in a way that preserves the unique historic details that have endeared this building to Detroiters for generations." ODA’s strategic role is to update and expand on Book Tower’s programming and existing structures, creating nearly 500,000 square feet of mixed-use space downtown that will blend public and private. “The Book Tower will serve as a point of engagement," said Eran Chan, ODA New York’s founding principal, "unlocking its potential as a link in the heart of Detroit; bringing people, place, and events together. The Book Tower represents to us Detroit’s regeneration; how the city, standing in its unique and distinguished history, is entering a new time that is more diverse, more inclusive and more sustainable.” Detroiters will be offered a renewed take on a building full of memories, as the public has been invited to tour the Book Tower as part of Detroit Design 139, an exhibition focusing on projects in Detroit that embody “inclusive futures.” Bedrock officials and ODA will present “A Look Inside Book Tower” on Saturday, Sept. 7 from 1:30-6 p.m.