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wolverine

Wolverine's Undergrad Capstone Project

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I thought this might be of interest to many of you since it has been heavily discussed on this forum: Cobo Center.

Obviously, many of you know that this building has had several proposals including entirely reconstructing the center, and the more recent one as a renovation.

This semester is my last as an undergraduate in the University of Michigan Architecture program. Typically, all ~105 students in my class do the same general project. For example, last semester was housing in Toledo. We all did apartment/condo buildings, but each studio comprised of 15 students had a specific theme. This semester is different, and each studio now has a different project. My neighboring studio is redoing the existing border crossing at the ambassador bridge. So, as you probably guessed, my studio is doing Cobo Center.

We will have to make a decision very soon. Will there be a new Cobo, or a renovated one? If it's new, where will you put it? On an existing location? Somwhere else in the city? Or somewhere else in the region? If you are renovating it, what will be done? Tear down the arena? New concourse? Reconfigured parking? We are also asked to look at the Lodge freeway and Jefferson Ave. Will our project change these?

But unlike previous years, we must now consider who is going to pay for this. We will need to study past news articles, and proposals to figure out what works and what doesn't. If we are planning to build a new Cobo, it will obviously cost a lot more, so a plan must be devised as to who will contribute. Will it be the suburbs and the city together? Can we predict better regional cooperation in future years?

It should be interesting. Because now I can take something we've discussed here, and turn it into something more.

Another thing we are asked to think about is the current building and what it represents. Cobo Center was definitely a building of it's time. Constructed in an era where people were discovering increased mobility with the new freeways. Freeways were the future. Planners imagined cities wrapped in networks of skyways, ramps, and parking garages. Roadways that passed through buildings, and skywalks that could take pedestrians back and forth between buildings without ever having to step out onto a sidewalk.

To some extent, those features of the modern city were realized in Detroit. Larned and the Lodge pass directly under Cobo. We have roof parking and a bunch of twisting ramps to service it. Cobo expresses the automobile. It's not a place to walk to, but to drive to. While to some extent it covers up the unsightliness of the lodge, at the same time, it cuts Jefferson off from the west side of the city. It's hard to get around, although recent improvements with the Riverwalk have helped. But the riverwalk is still behind this massive complex, and there isn't a whole lot going on around it that would attract pedestrian activity.

What should the new Cobo be?

We are now leaving the generation of automobile expression. If Cobo is to respresent the future, what will it be? Our new information age? Impacting the future of Detroit? There will be many things to consider. At this time we are asked to make a booklet of our thoughts. Collect images and articles, and formulate a respone to what we think the new Cobo Center will be like. I'm very excited for this project.

I'm also willing to hear any of your thoughts and ideas. I'm looking forward to sharing my project (as well as others) with you all.

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It's a mega cool project, definitely more interesting than housing in Toledo.

I have a crazy idea. You could think about putting it underground, where it currently is. Jefferson would run on top of the center, and hart plaza would continue west. Jefferson to Larned would be built with heavy supports to bear buildings on top, and larned to congress could be more park.

Part of the convention center would need to stick out as a normal building though, so that people have some kind of mental idea of where it is. That could be between cass washington larned and congress, which could also be a major people mover station.

Air conditioning would be a lot cheaper at least. There wouldn't need to be any real renovations very often, since there wouldn't really be anything to renovate (it's just a huge open space underground).

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It still has to be realistic Jason. Plus they need to figure out how to pay for the thing and demolishing, then rebuilding the entire thing underground, right next to the river, is going to cost more than any other proposal imaginable.

This is a very cool project. Cobo is something ive often thought about too so as soon as I can gather my thoughts I give my ideas.

Oh and thanks for including the forum on this thing.

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Underground Cobo would only be feasible if it were to be constructed using a slurry wall bathtub type of system like was done for the World Trade Center. It's very expensive, although probably the best idea with dealing with urban conditions. It would free up a lot of space on the surface and solve the problems with Jefferson and the Lodge. My current issue is thinking how to allow Jefferson to pass right through without splitting the center in half. The convention center floor needs to be one big open space.

This would not be the first time I've put buildings almost entirely underground. I did it last semester with a research facility that required massive storage warehouse space. It went six levels underground on the U of M campus. But this capstone project actually asks us to think about the costs going into this. Surely, our buildings will be extravagent and reach pricetags of around $1 billion. But underground construction would probably be about twice that.

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Well, like I said, it is a crazy idea. I think it's worth looking into though, it wouldn't take very much time to see if it's practical or not. I'm not an engineer, and architect, or a geologist, or a real estate person, or any of that kind of stuff, so everything I say is based on assumptions.

Cobo is only a few stories tall, and putting it underground wouldn't be too deep. There would be a lot of excavation which might be expensive, idk.

The roads under cobo, and the weird interchange thing are below the water level (I think), and they don't seem to flood. The Ren Cen presumably has basement levels, and it's right up against the water.

Cobo already supports a parking deck on the roof, so a new structure should be able to support open space (a park), and some roads. Having it support a building could be expensive, which I think is the most unrealistic part.

Putting it underground frees up some space that would be needed for things if it was above ground. There is nearby open space which could possibly be used somehow.

cobo1av9.jpg

But yeah, I'm not saying it's practical, or the best choice, or anything like that, it's just to think about. I don't think it's "more expensive than any proposal imaginable" though, and that's all I'm defending. I think it's in the realm of thinking about.

edit: You posted before me Wolverine, but I spent like, 10 minutes making that post so I'm not deleting it. :lol:

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I just think putting all of it underground would take this project out of the realm of possibility. First tearing down all those buildings. Then prepping the site so it can be built underground without worrying about the river. Then the square footage needed underground is going to be huge. I imagine it would be several stories deep to expand the facility. Then theres the cost of building this thing so other structures can be placed on top, then add in the complete reworking of the lodge and nearby roads.

Im curious Wolverine, how in depth with this do you have to get? Because you mentioned that you could move to another site and imediately MCS popped into my head. Would you still have to decide what would be done with the existing cobo or could you just focus on the new location?

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I know next to nothing about what this would entail or to what degree it would be possible, but if the Joe Louis were to relocate somewhere else in the city, taking that land and elimnating the section that extends over jefferson would really open up that section of the city. It always seems to me that Cobo really isolates the western part of the riverfront from downtown. of course it would probably be very expensive but if the if the Joe were to be relocated somewhere else then maybe it wouldn't be as much as an issue.

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The estimates from a few weeks (months?) ago about the costs of things said that renovation and rebuilding cost about the same, so I don't really think that's an issue. I think both were about 1 Billion, but I'm not positive.

I think the MCS plan was estimated at about 1.4 Billion, including 300,000,000 for the building's renovation (which looks to be about the same as rebuilding cobo + renovating MCS).

Wolverine estimates underground being 2 Billion, which is too much unless Bill Gates wants the building named after him.

The highway rebuilding stuff could be paid for by one of the transportation departments.

Building it to hold buildings on top would be expensive, and it would also probably require more frequent columns on the floorspace, which the convention wouldn't like.

The square footage needed underground would be huge, but it would be the same as above ground. Underground can extend under hart plaza (I didn't highlight all of hart plaza in the diagram), but it could extend underneath all the way until the tunnel. So there would be more horizontal space available since conventions also like it to be on one level. Including the rest of Hart Plaza almost doubles the area. Glancing at local live, you could build 3/4ths of the current Cobo space on one floor underground. I think Cobo is currently 4 floors.

But yeah, the River being there jacks up the price for the waterproofing. I don't think it's really the fact that it needs to be sealed, but more the scale that it would need to be scaled at. There's already quite a bit of stuff that goes underground around there, but the perimeter of a convention center is pretty big. The same goes for excavation, which wouldn't be a big deal if it wasn't for the scale.

Jason, yeah, that seems to be the most common proposal. I think it boosts the floorspace up to 900,000 square feet. Extending it onto the adjacent parking lot would probably push it over 1,000,000 which is an important threshold from what I understand.

Rebuilding it or adding on/renovating could fix the square footage issue, but it wouldn't fix any of the other issues. It just keeps on going with what isn't working very well because it's cheaper, which might be forced if people's pockets aren't deep enough, and that's the thing.

There's the huge area to the east of the Ren Cen, but that's already been planned for. The MGM spot isn't too bad, but it's not connected to the people mover, and of course, it's already taken. There's quite a few parking lots just west of the lodge, but the government wants those. There's space between Grand River, Adams, and Park, but I don't think it would be good to wipe out such an area. The hockey place is probably going to go there too. I can't think of anywhere else to put it.

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I just discussed with Jason that building a new Cobo off to the side and allowing Jefferson to pass through would be a really tights squeeze, even after tearing down Joe Louis arena I'm not sure about building a long convention space, or even filling in portions of the river to make room for it.

MCS sounds like a great idea. It brings in the possibility of having the tower used as a hotel. What worries me is what is behind it. As you might know there is the sloping approach to the tunnel to Windsor. That's some sensitive land to be putting a convention center on. I'll have to research more into this. Another thing I would be worried about is having some sort of transit line reaching it. This might require a people mover extension. That's taking costs up to around 70 million, and that's a line to nowhere when no conventions are going on. The line would probably need to be continued well into SW Detroit adding another 100 M. That's definitely on option to be considered though.

In the instance as to what will happen to the existing Cobo Hall, we really don't have to worry about that. Just the realization that it will be demolished, the street grid will be restored and the freeways capped.

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Yeah my next suggestion if MCS was chosen would be to build some sort of transit extension. If the people mover is too expensive what about a street car system down Michigan Avenue perhaps stopping at the new Transit Center? I like the thought of making MCS part of the new center but then theres Roosevelt park to divide up and making the space easy to navigate. I look forward to hear what you and your peers come up with.

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Out of curiosity, can someone name some convention centers as far outside of the CBD (in conventional cities) as one at the MCS would be?

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Out of curiosity, can someone name some convention centers as far outside of the CBD (in conventional cities) as one at the MCS would be?

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jasonsquiresdo, you make some excellent observations and points. I doubt my convention center would be multiple levels specificially because of the NAIAS, althought it was a consideration. But you are right, it might not work with Cobo.

After the U of M Detroit design workshop (http://www.tcaup.umich.edu/5-d/index.html) I and several other students talked with my instructor about the possible relocation of Cobo. He was interested in my MCS plan but it was a little early for that discussion The problems we weighed in were it's location, and its detachment from any transit link. Lets face it, not a lot of people will take buses back to the CBD or even shuttles. People enjoy the ease of the PM system knowing it's right there and they can hop on to Cobo and go to Greektown.

There is definitely a revived energy in people staying downtown after conventions. With that said, my MCS plan would likely require a PM extension along with implications for future expansion. I'd also need to draw up a proposal for the existing Cobo site. It's pretty predictable what would happen...restored street grid with a reconfiguration of the lodge, and hopefully the market takes control of the rest.

BTW, something I never really thought of. But our dean at the presentation today had this very interesting perspective of the CBD in that it is sort of like a shopping mall. It has 4 anchors right now. 1. Ford Field and Comerica 2 GM Renaissance Center 3. Cobo Center 4 MGM Grand Casino. All are located at major freeway connections, and all have the available parking to meet the demands for the entire downtown, especially the RenCen and casino. That means the rest has the ability to be incredibly pedestrian oriented and urban. The only problem is the DPM fails to reach the top two anchors as they were never built during the era of its construction.

I just think it brings in another issue of Cobo's location. Should it remain as an anchor to the downtown? Is it beneficial to the downtown? Will it do more for the city or possibly spur far more development if it was relocated just outside the CBD. Obviously, we all want a renovated MCS, but what are the impacts this will have on Corktown, what about the downtown now devoid of a convention center?

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The thought of opening up the river where Cobo sits gets me salivating. If the East Riverfront can explode with development imagine the possibilities with all that land. Much denser, more height, it would be amazing. Plus I think developers would jump all over it.

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As much as I hate Cobo, I can't imagine the downtown without a convention center, and McCormick Place seems to be the only other example in a big city that can be conjured, and it seems like an exception to the rule (i.e. 3 miles from the center of the loop). I'd guess it'd be different if the riverfront between Cobo and MCS wasn't so industrial. What the industrial areas end up doing is making MCS seem much further away from the CBD than it otherwise would. Still, even if Cobo were moved to allow this land to be developed, something about a convention center sitting so far outside the CBD doesn't sit well with me. That said, from C-Mart to the MCS it's exactly 2 miles.

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FYI, I just checked out a piece of info on wikipedia that if Cobo were to be combined with Michigan Central Station, the cost would be around 1.2 Billion. 300 Million of that would be necessary to renovate the station itself.

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ah, 1.2. But yeah, about .3 is the renovation, so without it it is just as expensive as the other two options. which were like .9 and 1 or something, I don't remember.

How would you plan on integrating MCS with the new cobo? There's plenty of land over there for a convention center. Would you treat it as an addition, or would you build it next to it and connect it with skywalks. How would MCS function in terms of the convention center? I think some might see it as misuse of public money (if it is public money) if MCS has no direct and real purpose to the convention center. If MCS would be a hotel, then is it the convention centers job to have a hotel, and should public money pay for a marriot bla bla bla bla bla (you probably already know the argument I'm talking about).

The whole anchor downtown corners thing is something I agree with, and I think cobo is an important anchor. I also think it would be really cool if downtown was expanded over where cobo used to be, but I don't think developers would jump on it. There are already city owned lots downtown that don't have much wrong with them that no one seems to want to do anything with. The new lots cobo would make would probably be more desirable, but I think they'd be parking lots for a while. I think that's an important aspect of moving cobo.

ok, that's everything I can think of right now. :)

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Could this project turn to mixed-use Wolverine? Or does it strictly have to be a convention center.

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I think moving Cobo that far outside of the CBD is a bad idea. While using MCS saves an architectural gem, gives Corktown and the Michigan Ave corridor a a boost; I don't think that makes up for those the loss of convenience with some of the city's premier hotels just blocks away. With so much new hotel space coming on line, I'd hate to move something this important to their survival miles away.

Also, do we really want to add more issues to an already complex project? The cost of the cheaper expansion option is already a major point of contention . Then you have land acquisition issues with Maroun who is sure to try gouging the price of MCS. As others have said this would need new transit links that'd, be just another added expense for the regional leadership to argue about. I think by far the best option is expanding it in place of both arenas and trying to address some Cobo's faults.

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With the sale + renovation of MCS around $300-350, I hardly see that as gouging, but you are correct about the surrounding hotels that will be dependent on Cobo being within close vicinity. These include the B-C, and definitely Doubletree Fort Shelby. I need to find accurate statistics as to whether a relocated Cobo would in fact hurt downtown business. If a proper link were established between the two (approximately two miles as LMich mentioned) I can't forsea any significant harm to area hotels.

So far, it is my opinion that, with possibly the exception of the hotels, a new Cobo outside the CBD would not drain business in downtown Detroit. I also believe that the existing location can be filled with something that would be far more beneficial to the city.

What Cobo is today is the complete opposite of what any new convention center would do. They have cut out a swath of land in the city, it has killed the ground level with freeways and entrance ramps. It occupies a Riverfront site, which is a dated practice in planning. It's also a very inward building. It contributes just about as much to its immediate surroundings as the MGM casino or the county jail. There's really not much that can be done to fix this building. You could give it a 300 million $ facelift and it's still going to be second class in comparison to centers in other regions.

I'm concerned about the workability of the existing site. It's appropriate in that it's already tied to an existing transit system and has good freeway access. But what would make the new Cobo special, and beneficial to the city is hard to do on such a small and complex site.

I'm going to continue to develop my ideas for both sites. There's are pro's and con's to both.

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Oh one more thing. I've been researching up on the Pennsylvania Conventionn Center in downtown Philadelphia which rehabbed a major rail station similar in scale to MCS.

http://local.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&amp...p;scene=7121265

Obviously it's in the heart of the city which is a mark of success. Also take note as how it really hasn't chopped up the city all that much, and engages the ground level far nicer than Cobo.

It's about to undergo a large expansion. It will occupy the few empty lots to the left-back of the center. It will also incorporate the historic buildings.

I found this project so interesting that I would like to travel out to Philadelphia soon when I get caught up on schoolwork to research this building. I want to see how state of the art meets historical structures, from the MCS standpoint....as well as how well the center interacts within the city for keeping Cobo in its place.

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That's a really cool convention center. It seems smaller than Cobo needs though. Hopefully you can get it to work out.

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