The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, July 20, 2012

Classic Dime Building latest to get modern makeover

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

DETROIT – One by one, the city’s stock of century-old downtown high-rises is getting renovated, refurbished, and ready for the next generation of tenants.

Next in line: the 99-year-old Dime Building. On July 10, Turner Construction Co. made ready for the owner the final two completed floors under a contract that brought about the renovation of 11 of the building’s 23 levels. Still to come: the renovation (under a separate contract with Barton Malow) of the top two floors for use of the Chrysler Corp. – which will bring about the automaker’s first presence in Detroit in the company’s history. 

Turner Construction Project Manager Duane Wixson said the renovation work began in April, with the gutting of the interiors. “Floor by floor, we basically created open office space,” he said. “It’s a modern, open approach to offices that Quicken Loans has used in its other buildings. When we started, there were varying degrees of finish on each floor. Some floors sat completely demolished prior to the start of this project, some were completely built out from tenants who had previously moved out, and the rest of the floors had undergone partial renovations that had never been completed. So we peeled back layers of finish, and found some of the original details had been covered up over the years.”

In particular, original marble around the elevators had been covered up by old renovation work. “It was nice to bring some of the old finishes, like this marble, back to life,” Wixson added.

After a century of coming and going of building owners, tenants and office workers, turns out the finishes and fixtures on only the 14th floor were original to the building. The rest had been renovated at some point in the past. Wixson said they found the building to be in good structural shape, but early on in the renovation process, a fairly significant quirk became evident: the floors weren’t level. The concrete-over-clay tile floors varied by as much a couple of inches on most floors, requiring the use of a considerable amount of floor-leveling compound.

Each of the 15,000-square-foot floors under Turner’s contract was renovated identically, except one.  The project peaked out at about 125 Hardhats, often working two shifts to get the work done in the owner’s desired schedule. “The trades have been great,” Wixson said. “They have been highly capable. I was appreciative of the fact that they understood that this project was on a tight timeframe, and they responded.”

Located at Griswold and Fort Streets, the Dime Savings Bank Building became the tallest building in Detroit when it was completed in 1913. It was designed by famed architect Daniel Burnham, who is recognized as the master planner for the city of Chicago. Clad in limestone, the exterior of the Dime Building has also been undergoing cleaning and spot repairs over the last few months by Ram Construction Services. The building’s beautiful, ornate lobby underwent a renovation in 2002.

The renovation of the tenant floors of the Dime Building or “Chrysler House” – as as it was re-named with the announcement of Chrysler Corp. moving in – will place another 320,000 square-feet of office space on the downtown Detroit real estate market. The Dime joins the newly renovated First National Building, the Chase Bank Building, the Madison Building and others that were purchased by Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert. And much to his credit, Gilbert is renovating his properties with local construction contractors hiring a local, union workforce.

All told, about 4,000 Quicken employees are being moved in from the suburbs, as part of a Pied Piper-like effort from Gilbert to re-populate and reinvigorate downtown Detroit.

“This building was definitely under-occupied, and Quicken Loans was the engine to get things going here and in the other buildings downtown,” said Wixson. “Quicken and Bedrock (Real Estate Services, a Gilbert holding) have been fantastic to work with, they’re very knowledgeable about the construction process and what they want done. They’ve been a great partner.”

Chrysler is moving a tiny fraction of its workforce (about 70 employees) to the Dime/Chrysler House from its massive headquarters in Auburn Hills. But the move to take up about 33,000 square-feet is symbolic for the company, which has been revitalized in part because of its successful “Made in Detroit” advertising campaign. Their move is the result of an “opportunity to be part of Detroit and the sales efforts of the building’s owner, Quicken Loans Inc. founder Dan Gilbert,” says Crain’s Detroit Business.

“This is another step on the path to reviving a great city,” said Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, in Crain’s, who will have an office in the building. “And this building has a tremendous character and history here. It’s a place where we feel at home.”

,strong>THE DIME BUILDING – now, aka the Chrysler House – had many of its floors renovated in work that wrapped up this month. Opened in 1913, its signature feature is the light well facing Griswold Ave.

INSTALLING AN INTERIOR glass panel at the Dime Building are (l-r) Don Stepp and Dennis Searle of Glaziers and Glassworkers Local 357, working for Modern Mirror.