Beginning as two empty surface lots on a crowded city block, The Z in Detroit is a transformative mixed-use building that changes the energy of the adjacent historic Broadway district.
The design team for this project was tasked with creating a building in an area of the city that desperately needed more parking to accommodate all of the young, vibrant talent returning to the city for work and entertainment. They came up with a 10-level, precast concrete structure that would hold 1282 cars above 33,000 ft
) of grade-level retail and restaurant space.
"Precast was much more cost-effective than cast-in-place," says John Olszewski vice president of construction at Bedrock Real Estate Services, owner of the project.
Choosing a precast concrete design allowed the team to meet cost and schedule goals and accommodate the tight confines of the job site and the busy urban setting, all while delivering an interesting and varied facade that complements, rather than overwhelms, the local architecture.
The outside of the building features an exposed aggregate and white precast concrete finish with a bold geometric picture frame design intended to reduce the apparent scale of the 10-story structure. The precast concrete facade uses repetitive formwork to create the faceted picture frame panels, and the deck spans a public alley with crossovers above level three to allow users to enter and exit onto two major arteries into and out of the city.
"The unique two-story precast cladding screens views of parked cars and reduces the visual mass of the deck," says Scott Bonney, design director at Neumann/Smith Architecture. "The white precast blends with neighboring white terra-cotta-clad towers, and angular precast frames respond to the neighboring modernity of the YMCA."
The precast concrete panels produced by Kerkstra Precast, were formed during the winter to reduce the erection crew's exposure to the severe Michigan climate. Once construction began, the panels were shipped and delivered in a timely manner, keeping up with the project's aggressive schedule.
"Using precast, we were able to carefully sequence the construction operation and minimize the number of trades needed on the site," says Kathy Buck, project architect with Neumann/Smith Architecture. "Utilizing the same erection team and a single erection process gave us real controllability."
Through cost savings due to the use of precast concrete, Bedrock was able to collaborate with Library Street Collective gallery, located in one of the adjacent buildings, to bring in 27 world-renowned street muralists to beautify the inside of the parking garage. The artists were asked to create a museum within the precast concrete walls, adding vibrant murals that represent what the city means to each artist on each of the 10 floors.
"The interesting design elements of the exterior frames became the picture frames for the art inside," Bonney says. "The project has already become an iconic destination for art tours and out-of-towners."
The designers also incorporated brightly lit, 10-story glass stairwells at each corner of the building to create a sense of safety for the community. Each landing has bright white LED lights, and the outer corners of the stair towers are lined with vertical RGB LED lights with 16.2 million possible color combinations programmed to celebrate holidays and local events.
"They have become lanterns for the neighborhood," Bonney says."They light the city and make the streets safer and friendlier for pedestrians passing by."