Riverfront Towers

300 Riverfront Park Drive on the Detroit River near downtown Detroit


There was a great deal of new residential construction in the city of Detroit in the five years following the victory of the Allies in World War II.  Much of the northwest and northeast sections of the city were still vacant since there had been no new construction in the city since the start of the Depression.  Quickly those areas were filled with the modest homes we find there now.  Relatively few large apartment buildings were built in Detroit after World War II.  The structures you see are something of an exception.  Almost all of the city’s waterfront—with the exception of the area along the Detroit River north of the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle—were used for industries, many of them dating from the late Nineteenth Century.  Gradually, investors began to see the potential in using the attractive riverfront but the process of reusng this area was slow and is very far from complete.

In the 1980s, the two large Riverfront Towers buildings were constructed and located in a 25-acre park.  The People Mover provided a kind of isolation for the buildings but they are not gated as are several other recently developed upscale neighborhoods in the city of Detroit.  A third Riverfront Towers building was constructed about a decade later and has, in some sense, a warmer style about it.  Perhaps, the interest in sleek modernist architecture was waning by the time the third building was constructed.

In 2007, the building to the east was converted from apartments to condominiums.  The two buildings to the east were sold to a New Jersey real estate investment firm.  By 2011, that firm had defaulted on its payments and, I believe, Fannie Mae owned the two buildings.  I do not know who, in 2013, owns or operates those two buildings.  The condominium building was not affected by the financial problems of the other two structures.

Two towers to the west:
Date of completion: 1984
Architect: The Gruzen Partnership
Architectural style: Functional modern
Tower to the east:
Date of completion: 1991
Architect: The Martin Company
Architectural style: Functional modern
Use in 2013:  Two towers to the east are apartments.  The third tower is a condominium.
City of Detroit Designated Historic District: Not listed
State of Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: Not listed
National Register of Historic Places: Not listed
Photograph:  Ren Farley; May 29, 2013
Description prepared: June, 2013

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