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Retail’s history and future plays out in one building in Detroit


The address of Under Armour’s new brand house in Detroit — 1201 Woodward Avenue — is an historic one in retail. There, in 1917, S.S. Kresge, the forerunner of Kmart, opened its first Detroit “five-and-dime.” The Kresge Building figures in recent retail history, too, as one of the bloc of buildings purchased by Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert in his quest to revitalize Detroit’s blighted downtown.

It was just in the past year that Under Armour decided to make its mark on the new Detroit in this auspicious space. Bedrock — the development arm of Gilbert’s Rock Ventures LLC — took on the task of recasting this long-vacant space with the Under Armour brand while retaining the building’s historic aura.

“Under Armour embraced Detroit as an up-and-coming city. They were all-in for an A-level store here, like the brand house they have in downtown Chicago,” said Bedrock project director Scott Collins.

“The building is very open with a mezzanine level and an old marble staircase,” Collins continued. “The people from Under Armour embraced the character of the building and wanted to retain the staircase and the mezzanine space.”

Kraemer Design Group, a local architectural firm, worked with Under Armour to preserve and incorporate architectural details in the space. “The staircase itself had to be replaced, but the marble facings and brass railings were carefully refurbished,” said Kraemer’s project architect Laura Mitchell.

One unique challenge the project team faced was adding an elevator. According to Sachse Construction VP Jeremy Gershonowicz, Under Armour needed it installed for easier and quicker access to product stock in the lower level of the building and for exclusive access to each of their floors.

“The project team put their heads together to devise a way to build an operating elevator into the old building that was not previously built for such a structure,” said Gershonowicz. “This was done by relocating a vast amount of the existing building’s mechanical and electrical infrastructure, modifying the floor openings and installing a new elevator pit, and then adding in the CMU shaft walls.”

The elevator installation took about 28 weeks, according to Gershonowicz, while tenant buildout was done in just about half that time.

Through it all ran a mission of interlacing retail’s past with its future. “This was not just another building,” Collins remarked. “We took stock of its history and tried to make it look like it did originally.”

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