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National Theatre Redevelopment Includes Entertainment District With Food and Drink Options

Plus, Experience Zuzu and Upstairs Bar are opening this weekend downtown

A rendering of Bedrock’s plans for the development of Cadillac Square in downtown, Detroit, Michigan. Rock Media
Serena Maria Daniels is the editor for Eater Detroit.

The long derelict Albert Kahn-designed National Theatre downtown will see new life — in a new location — when the façade of the historic site is deconstructed and restored as part of Bedrock’s ambitions to transform part of downtown into an entertainment hub.

Earlier this year, Bedrock shared plans to redevelop 1.5 million square feet of space in the Cadillac Square area between Monroe and Randolph streets into a mixed-use district that includes 90,000 square feet for a market hall, grocery, restaurants, other retail options, as well as residential units, parking, and office space.

As part of those plans, Bedrock has partnered with tvg Hospitality to rehab the National Theatre, which first opened its doors in 1911 but fell into disrepair after its closure in 1975. Restoration is supposed to include deconstructing the building’s façade and rebuilding it into a “world-class music and performance venue.” Tvg Hospitality is a venue operator based in the United States and the UK, with experience in the restoration of several other properties across the country. Once construction is complete, the group will operate the venue along with locally-based promoters.

Construction is expected to start next year after the NFL Draft.

Paradise Valley reimagined

Elsewhere downtown, Bedrock announced construction plans in areas neighboring the Cadillac Square development, including Detroit’s first location for Fixins Soul Kitchen this winter at 1435 Randolph Street — a soul food chain restaurant owned by Kevin Johnson, the former mayor of Sacramento, California and NBA All-Star. Fixins was founded Johnson and his wife, Michigan, in 2019 in Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood. Dennis Archer, Jr. — the owner of Central Kitchen + Bar who also serves on the board for the Paradise Valley Cultural and Entertainment District Conservancy — also has plans for the area with the forthcoming Vinyl Society, a performing arts space and cocktail lounge. Other projects in the works include converting the Harvard Square Center on Broadway near Harmonie and Library Parks into 42 residential units and mixed-use space; construction of a nine-story, mixed-use building with 80 residential units behind three historic façades on Broadway; plus, redevelopment and beautification efforts in Paradise Valley and Greektown.

Lower Woodward openings

A “New Asian” restaurant and accompanying anime-themed cocktail bar are set to open Saturday at 511 Woodward, according to social media announcements posted earlier this week. The Elia Group’s operations and services arm, the Iconic Collection, unveiled plans in April to launch the dining destination and bar inside the the long-vacant space. The restaurant’s food menu includes sushi, appetizers, and other dishes prepared in a wok, charcoal oven, and wood-fired grill. The Upstairs Bar serves cocktail, club vibes, and small plates in a space described in a media release as “a techno fantasy brought to life, melding Detroit’s distinctive sound with Japan’s colorful anime aesthetic.” Outside, an expansive outdoor patio provides views of lower Woodward. Reservations for Experience Zuzu are now available on OpenTable. Folks interested in booking a booth or table at Upstairs Bar can make a request, though that does not guarantee admission.

Says a statement on the opening from Elia Group and Iconic Collection founder Zaid Elia: “We are so thrilled to welcome guests to Experience Zuzu and Upstairs. Zuzu is a big and bold Asian restaurant — a one-of-a-kind dining destination. Upstairs, on the second floor, is an ultra-luxe cocktail lounge and club, a true techno fantasy. Our team has worked tirelessly to bring these venues to life in the heart of downtown Detroit. We’ve created extraordinary spaces and an atmosphere that will allow people to come together and enjoy their family, friends and colleagues in an entirely new way and create timeless memories.”

Update: August 23, 2023, 1:35 p.m.: This article was updated to include comments from Zaid Elia.