Entrance to RenCen Towers to Get New Look, Improved Pedestrian Access

You may have noticed construction under way at the foot of Towers 500 and 600 at the Renaissance Center, where crews have been busy demolishing concrete, moving dirt and hoisting steel. Blue Cross is making improvements to the entrance for the two towers and an underground parking garage as part of its ongoing project to move 3,000 employees from the suburbs to the city.

Crews have been working since May to create a more welcoming entrance that opens up pedestrian access to East Jefferson Avenue.

“We saw the opportunity to overhaul and improve the towers entrance as a key part of our efforts to accommodate employees and create a unified downtown campus,” said Tricia Keith, vice president, Corporate Secretary and Services. “The changes will reflect a better orientation with the city streets, be more welcoming to employees and visitors, and encourage more interaction with local businesses.”

A rendering of the new entryway to Towers 500 and 600.

Workers demolished a concrete flyover ramp over Beaubien Street that connected the towers with the main RenCen buildings where General Motors has its headquarters. Previously, people found the tower entryway blocked from Jefferson by a fenced parking lot and had to use the flyover bridge or enter from St. Antoine Street to the east.

“What we wanted to do is rework that ramp, take it out and do a nice sloped grade from Jefferson and Beaubien, a sloped sidewalk that any of the employees can just go right up to Towers 500 and 600,” said Jerry Tomczak, project manager with The Christman Co., which is overseeing the project.

Workers have also been fixing structural problems with an underground parking garage that lies directly beneath the towers entrance by constructing a new steel and concrete roof, Tomczak said.

The new entryway will feature a retaining wall featuring the company’s cross-and-shield logo and a roughly 90-space parking lot. A landscaped sidewalk with benches will lead workers and visitors to the entrance from Jefferson. The fence blocking the entryway from Jefferson is being removed.

An overhead view of how the changes will look.

“It’s just going to enhance that existing curb appeal, that whole look out there,” Tomczak said. “It’s going to make it a nicer look, more user-friendly entrance.”

The project is on schedule to wrap up in October, he said.

The facelift is the latest in a series of efforts to transform the 35-year-old Renaissance Center complex.

After GM purchased the RenCen in 1996, it announced a $500 million renovation plan that eventually added the five-story Wintergarden auditorium and removed a set of massive concrete berms along East Jefferson that some said walled the facility off from the city at large.

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