ComPRehension

Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
October 24, 2008

Welcome to Our House


There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t stop and ask someone, “You have that ‘I’m lost in the RenCen’ look on your face. Can I help you find your way?” For first-time visitors, this place can seem overwhelming — it is just so big and so beautiful. Visitors often just stop in their tracks and stare upward. Welcome to the GM Renaissance Center.

Having worked in the GM Renaissance Center (or the RenCen as we call it) for several years, I know very well architect Jonathan Portman’s design goal — for every visitor to have a “new” experience when they come into the building. For some, that can mean “lost.” But don’t let it intimidate you. The RenCen is nothing more than a circle with a big hotel in the center and four main towers around the outside. You can’t take a bad photograph in this place, and there are just so many cool things about it that we never tire of welcoming friends to our “home away from home.” It truly is an ideal place to host a PRSA International Conference. Consider this:

  • Henry Ford II conceived and built the Renaissance Center, and officially opened its doors April 15, 1977. The total cost for the initial construction was $350 million, making it one of the largest privately-financed real estate developments at the time. 
  • Before the GM renovations in 1996, the Renaissance Center contained 250,000 cubic yards of concrete, 38,000 tons of structural steel, two million square feet of glass and 11,535 windows.
  • The GM Renaissance Center renovation project entailed approximately 5.5 million square feet and was the largest multi-use facility renovation project of its kind anywhere in the world at the time. 

  • The GM Renaissance Center covers 14 acres on the Detroit Riverfront and 25 acres on the East River area.
  • Every U.S. president has visited the Renaissance Center since its opening in 1977. Approximately 6,000 individuals visit daily, not including the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center’s hotel guests and function participants.
  • 75 lights on the world map located on the GM Riverfront Plaza represent major urban areas around the world.
  • There are 121 elevators and escalators that, when stacked end to end, would cover approximately 30,000 feet or 6 miles, the same distance from the GM Renaissance Center to the McArthur Bridge at Belle Isle.
  • The Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center (official hotel for the PRSA 2008 International Conference) is the largest hotel in Michigan and from the top floors of the hotel tower, on a clear day, visibility is up to 30 miles. The hotel tower rises 740 feet above the street level and is the tallest building in Michigan. The tower is the largest reinforced concrete structure in North America. There are 1,848 beds in the hotel and 2.75 miles of mattress. The GM icon logos on the top of the hotel tower are 25 feet x 25 feet and weigh nearly two tons.
  • It takes window washers two to three months to clean all of the office tower windows.
  • The Wintergarden’s (site of the exciting Opening Night Reception for Conference) highest point is 103 feet. The glass roof of the Wintergarden contains 1,400 panes of green tinted glass. Each pane is five feet square. The interior includes 13,700 square feet of terrazzo flooring and ten 40-foot palm trees. The insulated glass covers an area equal to 80 percent of a football field. The Wintergarden is made up of 380 tons of steel, 150 tons of glass, and 2.9 miles of structure-strengthening cables.
  • The Circulation Ring is one-eighth of a mile in circumference and made of 305 tons of main structural steel. It has 288 pieces of three-layered etched glass; each piece of glass weighs 400 pounds. 
  • Lastly, you can look out the windows and see something truly unique. This is the only place in the lower 48 states where you can look south and stare at Canada. Yep, that’s Windsor, Ontario, across the Detroit River, to the south.

Welcome to our house. Now, can I help you find your way?

John McDonald, manager, communications, sales reporting, pricing, incentives and market trends, General Motors Corporation.

Join McDonald at the PRSA 2008 International Conference: The Point of Connection October 25-28, in Detroit, MI!

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