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RenCen Looking More and More Like a Ghost Town

Cost-cutting by automaker could cripple Detroit.

by on Sep.23, 2009

Even if GM stays put, the Renaissance Center is starting to look a little empty.

Even if GM stays put, the Renaissance Center is starting to look a little empty.

When it was first built, three decades ago, Detroit’s Renaissance Center was intended to signify Motown’s long-awaited turnaround.  Instead, it could soon signal the economic collapse of the troubled city.

Rumors that General Motors might abandon the headquarters building it acquired in 1996 have been circulating ever since the automaker started considering bankruptcy, early this year, and senior officials refused to rule out such an option after emerging from court protection, in July.  Such a move might save hundreds of millions of dollars in operating costs, never mind the higher taxes GM employees pay to work within Detroit city limits.

The most likely alternative, corporate insiders suggest, would be to pack up and leave the 7-building complex, along the Detroit River, and relocate to the now under-utilized GM Technical Center, a dozen miles to the north, in the suburb of Warren.  Local officials have been actively campaigning to convince the automaker to make such a move.

But even if the heart of General Motors stays put, it appears the RenCen is slowly being emptied out, several sources confirm for  As part of its reorganization plan, GM agreed to abandon four of its North American brands.  That, alone, means a lot of empty space in the corporate complex.

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Pontiac is being closed, and substantial cuts have already being made to the once popular division’s staff – along with the broader cuts made in GM’s white-collar workforce, much of it once based in downtown Detroit.