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tvsdesign's Detroit Cobo Conference & Convention Center

By Adam Moore

Detroit is a city ready for a reinvention, and city officials are hoping that a $221 million renovation of the Cobo Center will be the catalyst.

Detroit is a city ready for a reinvention, and city officials are hoping that a $221 million renovation of the Cobo Center—the 19th largest convention center in the country and home to the North American International Auto Show—will be the catalyst.

The project, led by Atlanta-based firm tvsdesign, is intended to put a bold exclamation point on an already revitalized riverfront area. The most striking addition planned is a spacious three-story glass atrium that will connect the main floor of the venue with a new entrance facing the Detroit River, linking the Cobo Center more fully with the riverfront. High-efficiency glass walls will also line a majority of the center's riverside exterior, bringing in natural light and updating the city's skyline. The 40,000-square-foot redesigned ballroom will feature a glass wall and open-air terrace facing Hart Plaza and downtown, as well as a pre-function space with a panoramic view of the river and the international border with Canada to the south.

The center will also receive an infusion of technology to help it regain its stature in the convention sector. The building's eastern façade will feature a high-tech "media mesh," which will function as a giant digital signboard welcoming conventions to Detroit and the new convention center. Additional electrical capabilities will be added to exhibition spaces, and more efficient environmental systems will help green the building's profile.

"We want the renovation to reflect some of the unique qualities of the Detroit area and of this site," says Jay Thomson, AIA, project design principal for tvsdesign. "We have a magnificent location next to the Detroit River that we want to be a highlight of one's experience here. And we hope that the changes will provide the building with a new sensibility that corresponds to Detroit's history as a center of creativity, technology and design."

All major project elements are planned to be complete by the 2014 North American International Auto Show in January; full project completion is expected by December of that year. For more information, visit