Detroit’s Iconic Renaissance Center Celebrates 40 Years

Guest Blogger

| 4 min read

Renaissance Center
This year, one of the most iconic buildings along Detroit’s skyline celebrates its 40th anniversary. In honor of this hallmark, the team over at the GMRENCEN has shared 40 facts to celebrate its history.
Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the GMRENCEN blog, used with permission.
  1. Construction of the GMRENCEN was announced in 1971.
  1. Ford Motor Company originally owned the GMRENCEN.
  1. General Motors purchased the GMRENCEN from Ford Motor Company in 1996.
  1. Bob Hope was the master of ceremonies and helped opened the Renaissance Center with fanfare.
  1. The Renaissance Center was the vision of Henry Ford II.
  1. The name “Renaissance Center” was chosen in a contest to name the building and 141,537 names were submitted.
  1. Tower 100 opened first in 1976.
  1. Towers 500 and 600 opened in 1981.
  1. The GMRENCEN is 73 stories tall.
  1. The original plans for the GMRENCEN included more buildings.
  1. GM redesigned the Jefferson entrance in 2004 which now features a dynamic football shaped structure.
  1. The geofoam that covers the outdoor plaza behind the Wintergarden, makes the surface more comfortable for guests and the slate surface has the map of the world with 75 LED lights representing major urban areas throughout the world that light up brightly at night.
  1. The Glass Circulation Ring was installed in 1999 is 12 feet wide and 1/8 mile around.
  1. John Portman was the original architect who designed the five main towers.
  1. The GMRENCEN complex spans across 14 acres and holds 5.5 million square feet of office, dining, retail and lodging space.
  1. At 726 feet high, the Marriott hotel has 1,298 hotel rooms.
  1. The highest point in the five-story GM Wintergarden rises 103 feet.
  1. 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the building.
  1. The building sways up to 30 inches on windy days.
  1. Between 14,000 and 20,000 people are the in the building on a daily basis.
  1. GM opened the GM Wintergarden in 2001, previously it was a parking garage, swimming pool and fitness center.
  1. The palm trees in the GM Wintergarden are known as Washingtonian trees and were imported from San Diego, California.
  1. GM began redeveloping the Detroit RiverWalk in 2003, transforming it from a parking lot into the vibrant public space we know today.
  1. The GMRENCEN has its own zip code, 48243.
  1. Before GM donated the RiverWalk area to the Riverfront Conservancy, it was a parking lot.
  1. When the GMRENCEN first opened, there was very little signage and getting around was confusing. We have come a long way and now offer various wayfinding tools including color-coded towers, kiosk maps and an app.
  1. The GM Company Store opened in 2016 on Level 2 above the GM Wintergarden and sells branded merchandise.
  1. The Detroit People Mover opened in 1986 with a stop at the GMRENCEN.
  1. There are 18 different charging stations around the building for electric vehicles.
  1. GM announced the next expansion in 2016 that will transform the building into a world-class destination.
  1. In 2005, the GM Plaza water fountains were activated on the Plaza.
  1. In 2006, GM launched the first Rockin’ on the Riverfront Concert Series.
  1. There are more than 25 restaurants in the GMRENCEN ranging from fine dining to quick service.
  1. Before the GMRENCEN was completed, the Penobscot Building was the tallest building in Detroit.
  1. The canvases that hang on the walls overlooking the GM Wintergarden that represent the color-coded towers all have ties related to GM’s various commitments including their history and sustainability.
  1. The artwork in the center of the tower was done by Detroit artist, Jeff VanBuskert and his work has been compared to Diego Rivera.
  1. The Borealis glass art sculpture was designed by artist Danny Lang of England.
  1. The Borealis glass sculpture contains 1,250 pieces of glass.
  1. The GMRENCEN is a landfill free facility and has been since 2013.
  1. The GMRENCEN keeps warm from a renewable energy source. An underground pipeline attached to the building delivers process steam made from solid city waste from nearby Detroit Renewable Energy that heats and cools the building.
The GMRENCEN is asking visitors to celebrate its 40th anniversary on social media using the hashtag #GMRENCEN40. For details and information click here.
What is your favorite fact about the GMRENCEN? Let us know in the comment section.
Renaissance Center Front 1976
Renaissance Center 1976
Renaissance Center 1976
Renaissance Center 1976
Renaissance Center 1976
Photo credit: pparasurama (feature), GMRENCEN (gallery)

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