GM Thought About Selling Its Detroit Headquarters: Report

Illustration for article titled GM Thought About Selling Its Detroit Headquarters: Report
Photo: Getty Images

General Motors is headquartered at Detroit’s Renaissance Center, which was actually built by Henry Ford II in the 1970s the first time there was hope of a Detroit renaissance. GM has been there since 1996, though they recently considered selling it, apparently as part of a cost-cutting measure.


The RenCen, as it is colloquially known, is a series of seven structures, with the main one—the one with GM’s logo on it—being the tallest building in Michigan. Its symbolic importance to Detroit’s downtown is hard to overestimate, since much like Central Station, which Ford has said it will rehabilitate, its the most recognizable feature of Detroit skyline.

But according to Automotive News, GM thought about selling it last year. The potential buyer was Dan Gilbert, a billionaire who already owns much of downtown Detroit (and who is also dim, though that is beside the point for the purposes of this blog).

From Automotive News:

Talks between GM and Gilbert in the fall did not advance far, at least in part because the complex built in the 1970s and early 1980s by Ford Motor Co. under then-Chairman Henry Ford II requires substantial upgrades, including a costly overhaul of the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, said three of the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks were private.

One of the sources said a sale to Gilbert could happen down the line, and another said GM is not believed to be seeking other buyers.

GM, in an emailed statement last week, declined to comment on the discussion and emphasized the “significant investments and improvements to areas within and around its headquarters.”

The RenCen was completed in 1977, and was purchased by GM for $70 million in 1996, according to Automotive News, with the company later plowing hundreds of millions of dollars more in renovations in the aughts. Like a lot of “modernist” towers erected in the ‘70s, it looks like a sort of G-rated version of Willy Wonka’s penis, neither here nor there architecturally speaking.

Which is just to say that it wouldn’t be a tragedy necessarily if GM left. It might be positive, in fact, especially if they reclaimed Cadillac Place. It used to be a beaut:

Illustration for article titled GM Thought About Selling Its Detroit Headquarters: Report
Photo: AP

And it’s still a looker:

Illustration for article titled GM Thought About Selling Its Detroit Headquarters: Report
Screenshot: Google

News Editor at Jalopnik. 2008 Honda Fit Sport.



Speaking as a formal hotel and convention guest — the Ren Center hardly invokes enlightenment. Instead it is a dark, concrete labyrinth that happens to have a Granite City brewery and CVS. But hey, one can see the siren song of Windsor across the way, so, maybe that’s the metaphor to renaissance: sight-lines to universal healthcare and legalized gambling?