• Venue Spotlight: Detroit Foundation Hotel is a Hot Spot

    FROM THE Winter 2018 ISSUE

    Burning with curiosity, we explore the less-than-1-year-old Detroit Foundation Hotel and its restaurant, once the city’s fire department HQ.

  • Venue Spotlight: Detroit Foundation Hotel is a Hot Spot

    FROM THE Winter 2018 ISSUE

    Burning with curiosity, we explore the less-than-1-year-old Detroit Foundation Hotel and its restaurant, once the city’s fire department HQ.

Where poles, ladders, horse-drawn fire engines, stacks of gloves and rows of threequarter boots once were standard fixtures, now meeting planners delight in a chic hotel and restaurant that is considered one of the best Detroit renovations of 2017.

And amid those in the know, it’s the, well, hot spot to gather for everything from after-work drinks and inventive dining to business meetings, corporate gatherings and special events.

The Detroit Foundation Hotel and its Apparatus Room restaurant are located in a building that was once headquarters for the Detroit Fire Department. Its original structure was built in 1840. In the recent past, the Aparium Hotel Group has led the transformation of the building, plus the adjacent building, once home to Pontchartrain Wine Cellars, which was built in 1886.

Aparium worked closely to renovate the firehouse structure, which was built in 1929 following a fire that destroyed the 1840 building, with Birmingham-based McIntosh Poris Associates architect firm and Chicago-based Simeone Deary Design Group to turn out a masterpiece boutique hotel and restaurant. It gives an amazing nod to Detroit’s past while offering all of the chic and modern amenities one could possibly need for a top-notch meeting or event.

The 100-room boutique hotel and restaurant, at 250 W. Larned St. directly across from the Cobo Center, is joining a growing hospitality industry in downtown Detroit. It opened last spring and since then, meeting and event planners have been hosting gatherings of all types. Attendees give the new facility a thumbs up for various reasons, notes Director of Sales Emily Childers. 

“It’s centrally located in the city, convenient to Cobo Center, offers unique spaces, has natural light on the fifth floor, and food and beverage is provided by the Apparatus Room,” Childers says.

“Typically,” Childers adds, “the best size group for meetings that require overnight accommodations is between 20 to 30 attendees, needing 20-30 guest rooms. And all of our meeting spaces are very conducive to corporate groups.”


“Our first-floor Meeting Room (don’t miss the mural by Dino Valdez) is about 510 square feet. The Board Room accommodates up to 14 and our fifth-floor event space, for receptions for up to 120 guests, is 2,100 square feet,” says Childers.

That Board Room, incidentally, will keep attendees wide awake, to be sure, thanks to its beautiful table, crafted by a local artisan, a mounted flat-panel television, sculptural metal drum lighting (fluorescent lighting be gone!) and colorful modern art that pops amid bright white-brick walls.

In the Private Dining Room, attendees can enjoy the culinary works of chef Thomas Lents, who achieved a coveted two-star Michelin rating at his previous restaurant and is originally from Michigan. The private dining experience is for groups of eight to 30.

The fifth-floor event space, which features 12-foot ceilings, guests enjoy views of downtown buildings, a breezy balcony and, again, unusual light installations. Audiovisual capabilities and more round out the offerings of this breathtaking space. The outdoor terrace can accommodate up to 15, reception-style.

In the hotel, guests and meeting attendees are stropped in their tracks as they stroll through its halls and take in a variety of art forms created by local artisans. There are fascinating light fixtures in the Apparatus Room bar, inspired by the streetlights of Detroit. Steps away in the first-floor hallway, look up to the whimsical “cumulus” bulbs. Some of the art pieces explore various smoke imagery, as one might expect in this firehouse locale.


The Apparatus Room features iconic New American cuisine rooted in Midwestern ingredients, as well as thoughtful cocktails. The Apparatus Room team can prepare everything from oysters and Michigan brook trout to Michigan beef and braised farm chicken. For dessert, don’t miss such delectables as the House Puff Pastry, a blond chocolate mousse dream with pistachio pastry cream and a hint of raspberry.

Or try the Michigan Strawberry Tart, which features almond black-pepper shortbread. The Chocolate Cassis Mouse is also one to die for. “Our menu changes often, as it is seasonal,” Childers explains. “We rotate proteins and fruits and vegetables often.” 

“What speaks to me most [about our experience with our CREW Detroit-Development in the D presentation] is the hotel team’s passion about the city and what the hotel is trying to accomplish in Detroit,” says  Kristi Gilbert, director of marketing for O|X Studio in Ann Arbor, who hosted an event at the hotel recently. The firm is a team of 15 architects, interior designers and planners.

“Aparium is spot on in their brand—we believe in the power of people, place, and character—and it is abundantly  apparent in how you do your jobs and your commitment to the company’s message. The time spent with us during the site visit a few weeks ago and touching base with me several times throughout the evening to make sure everything was fine, it’s clear to see why the Detroit Foundation Hotel is a success.” 

After 36 years as director of the CVB, Peter Fitzsimons is retiring. By Shelley Levitt

In 1985, Peter Fitzsimons, a former hotel general manager, became the executive director of the newly formed Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau. He never left. In June, the 73-year-old Detroit native announced that he’d be stepping down from the role at the end of the year. 

MIM+E: When did you begin your career in hospitality?


It began as the first Cadillac dealership outside of Detroit, then became a roller rink in the 1950s. Now, the High Five GR is reopened as a premier event space in downtown Grand Rapids. The original roller rink hardwood floors remain, as do the vaulted ceilings and oversized arched windows that showcase the city lights. What’s new is a state-of-the-art a/v system and an event team that can create custom floorplans and organize set up/teardown and load in/out logistics.


The Townsend Hotel has been stacking up kudos in 2021. Maintaining AAA Four-Diamond status throughout its 34-year history and earning a Forbes Four Star rating for the last eight consecutive years, the 150-room luxury property in the walkable neighborhood of Birmingham and just 20 miles from downtown Detroit, was awarded the Travelers’ Choice Award by Tripadvisor in May, recognition that its positive review and ratings over the past 12 months placed it in top 10 percent worldwide of all hotels.