'Out of left field': RenCen businesses caught off guard by GM departure

Posted at 11:28 PM, Apr 15, 2024

DETROIT (WXYZ) — It’s the icon of Detroit’s skyline and a symbol of the Motor City. But soon, the Renaissance Center will no longer be the headquarters of its owner, General Motors.

It was a celebration inside the new Hudson's building on Woodward Avenue Monday as local elected officials along with GM and Bedrock Detroit executives announced the new development would soon become the new headquarters for General Motors. But for owners of businesses inside the RenCen, the mood was different.

“I'm sitting at my desk and I'm just kind of dazed because this came out of left field," said Joe Vicari, President of Vicari Restaurant Group. "We didn't know anything about this.”

Joe Vicari
Joe Vicari, president of Vicari Restaurant Group, talks with 7 Action News after it was announced that General Motors' headquarters is moving into the new Hudson's site. (April 15, 2023)

General Motors bought the building more than 20 years ago, investing millions of dollars and bringing thousands of workers to the complex. It’s also home to other businesses like a hotel, shops and restaurants. Vicari owns two of the restaurants, Andiamo and Joe Muer Seafood.

The restaurants certainly benefit from GM workers and the out-of-town visitors GM brings to the building. However, all of that has been declining the last four years.

“Before COVID, the Renaissance was very flourishing," Vicari said. "There were about 10,000 employees there. Today, there’s less than 2,000.”

VIDEO: Chopper 7 flyover of the construction at the Hudson's site in Detroit

Chopper Video: Hudson's site construction in Detroit

“We've been sort of limping along of what the capacity is with the RenCen here since the pandemic. Everything changed during that time frame," said Mark Reuss, president of General Motors. "About 80% of the companies here have hybrid work schedules including ourselves.”

GM, along with Dan Gilbert's Bedrock and local officials, will look into how to redevelop the building. Specific plans have not yet been determined.

Mark Reuss
Mark Reuss, president of General Motors, talks with 7 Action News after it was announced that GM is moving its headquarters into the new Hudson's site. (April 15, 2023)

“We're deeply committed to Detroit, so were committed to the RenCen as we find what we're going to do with it," Reuss said. "Nothing will change until we get that plan in place and we begin moving here (Hudson's) when this is done.”

“They talked very, very little about what's the future of the Renaissance Center," Vicari said about Monday's press conference, which he watched remotely. "I didn't get a lot out of it.”

VIDEO: GM and Bedrock hold joint news conference to announce headquarters move

GM and Bedrock hold joint news conference to announce General Motors' world headquarters is moving to the Hudon's site in 2025

Vicari is now bracing for GM’s move in 2025, hoping for yet another rebirth of a Detroit landmark.

“I really don't know what the future is. I hope there's a future and I'm sure there is," Vicari said. "Someone has got to fill up that building with tenants, and they haven't done it thus far.”