40 years ago: Detroit Renaissance Center opens

DETROIT – On April 15, 1977, the Detroit Renaissance Center opened along the Detroit Riverfront.

Four years of construction, which started in 1973, concluded with a dedication ceremony in 1977, marking the opening of the iconic set of skyscrapers.

The central tower, which is home to the Detroit Marriott hotel, is 73 stories tall, making it an overwhelmingly prominent structure on the riverfront.

After 40 years, it's difficult to picture Detroit without it.

This WWJ-TV (which later became WDIV) special from Dec. 9, 1973 focuses on how the seven-building complex was expected to lead a "renaissance" in Detroit. The word "catalyst" gets used a lot throughout the half-hour documentary. 

From the vault: 1973 special on Detroit Renaissance Center

What’s inside the Ren Center?

The Renaissance Center contains a mixture of office and retails spaces, as well as several restaurants. Most of the offices belong to General Motors.


The Renaissance Center was built in several stages, according to the Detroit Historical Society.

“The first stage consisted of the main five towers and the podium they rise from.  Ground was broken for the project in 1973 in a ceremony that included Mayor Roman Gribbs and Ford Motor Company CEO Henry Ford II.  This portion was completed in 1977,” said Brendan Roney, of the Detroit Historical Society.


Constructed in the 70’s, the Renaissance Center was designed by Architect John C. Portman.

Portman is the same architect who designed Atlanta’s Westin Peachtree Plaza and the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, which both have a striking resemblance to Detroit’s Renaissance Center.

More on the history of the Ren Cen here.

About the Authors:

Ken Haddad is the digital special projects manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013.

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.