Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects has just broken ground on its first U.S. project, Monroe Blocks, a masterplan that the international architecture firm has described as “downtown Detroit’s most significant mixed-use development in decades.” Located in the heart of Detroit’s Central Business District, the project will span two city blocks and feature a striking high-rise office tower that will not only be the first of its kind in the downtown area in more than 25 years, but it is also expected to become Detroit’s first WELL Certified building. Sustainability will also be woven throughout the rest of the urban complex, which was designed as a LEED-certified district.

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rendering of people walking around outside a high-rise tower

Slated for completion in early 2022, the Monroe Blocks development will consist of a 35-story, 810,000-square-foot office tower with 482 residential units, restaurants, retail and over an acre of open space on a 12,500-square-meter site between Greektown district and Campus Martius Park that has laid vacant for decades. The project aims to revitalize the heart of downtown Detroit by providing all the aspects needed for a thriving “live, work, play” environment. The development will also spur the creation of construction-related jobs as well as other permanent job positions.

On the left, high-rise tower rendering. On the right, aerial view of courtyard outside high-rise towers.

rendering of lanterns strung between buildings

Though undoubtedly contemporary in design, the masterplan will also sensitively reference the site’s history — the blocks were known as the city’s first theater district — and the neighboring 19th-century Italianate stone and brick architecture. One such example will be seen in the restoration and relocation of the facade of the historic National Theater, which has sat vacant for decades, to a new pedestrian walkway that will bisect Monroe Blocks. The scheme will also engage the urban fabric through vibrant public spaces and pedestrian-friendly design.

Related: Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects wins bid for carbon-neutral Solvay HQ in Brussels

rendering of people walking inside an office

rendering of people on escalators

“During the design process, we were heavily inspired by Detroit’s strong architectural gems and original masterplan by Augustus Woodruff,” said Kristian Ahlmark, Partner and Design Director at Schmidt Hammer Lassen. “Monroe Blocks will recreate this destination for work and leisure and will move people through the downtown area in new ways that we hope will inspire them to rediscover the city.”

+ Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

Images via Forbes Massie Studio, Hayes Davidson and Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

rendering of courtyard in between buildings