In the not-so-distant past, it was a challenge to fi nd boutique-style accommodations in the city of Detroit. Certainly, there are outstanding hotels, including the ever-popular towering, stylish Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center and Courtyard by Marriott downtown. Plus a scattering of small inns and large, upscale casino hotels also pepper Motown.
But now, the missing piece in the varietypacked puzzle of Detroit hotel options for meeting and conference planners is being filled with a veritable blitzkrieg of new chicboutique-unique accommodations, every one of which provides a true sense of place.
Take, for example, the Detroit Foundation Hotel, which won 2017 Best Upscale Hotel in the 27th Annual Gold Key Awards for Excellence in Hospitality Design. “When you walk into the Foundation Hotel, you sense an old Detroit feel, but at the same time it feels like a new and ‘hip Detroit,’” says Benny Spielmann, owner of Ciot, a high-end stone and tile company with headquarters in Canada and a huge outfit in Troy. “The hotel is very chic,” adds the businessman, who meets clients regularly at the hotel and restaurant.
Indeed, the facility’s design honors Detroit’s past while celebrating its promising future. And that celebration is becoming loud and clear in the city’s boutique hotel offerings.
“Boutique hotels are on the rise in downtown Detroit, providing a unique alternative to staying in the larger convention hotels,” says Michael O’Callaghan, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“The dining and shopping scene is also thriving,” O’Callaghan adds, “These new hotels are adding new restaurants and shops that will add to the meeting attendee experience.”
A majority of the hotels are being built at historic venues, punctuating the aforementioned Detroit vernacular.
Explains Trumbull & Porter hotel’s Ruth Butler: “As an authentic Detroit hotel, we stand for everything Detroit stands for—individuality and strength.” Butler, director of sales for the Corktown beauty, explains that a massive renovation with an accent on all things Detroit was completed June 2017. She notes that meetings and events attendees “feel connected to our incredible city.”
Not far from Corktown awaits the glamurban Aloft Detroit at the David Whitney, another historic gem-turned-beautiful-hotel.
“The David Whitney building is one of three surviving buildings in Detroit by the renowned architectural firm of Daniel H. Burnham & Co. Burnham is considered one of the most important American architects of all time,” says Laura Zolnowski, director of sales and marketing for the hotel.
The second one enters; it’s with disbelief. “The building’s atrium lobby is one of the most jaw-dropping in the city, a veritable terra cotta smorgasbord,” Zolnowski shares.
Undoubtedly, more and more developers are lured by the city’s fascinating history. Consider, for example, last fall’s (2017) purchase of the midcentury University Motel. According to reports, Midtown Detroit will transform the vintage hotel into micro apartments, a hotel and maybe some retail space. If the city can come back, so can its history.
Here’s an update on recent happenings within Detroit’s hotel scene.
Location: Within the historic David Whitney Building and one of the few landmark buildings ringing Grand Circus Park.
Address: 1 Park Ave.
Age: 4 years old (opened in December 2014)
Lowdown: 136 guest rooms, seven meeting rooms and 105 apartments
Green Scene: Conserving water, energy and other resources is rewarding, especially if you’re part of the hotel’s green initiative program, in which you receive a $5 voucher for food/beverages on the property if you decline housekeeping (awarded at checkout).
Sounds Good: Acoustic performances by some of the area’s hottest emerging artists fill the hotel’s W XYZ bar, where you’ll hear everything from indie-rock favorites to the latest hits.
THE DISTRICT DETROIT HOTEL
(Note: the official name and opening date in 2019 were not determined at press time.)
Location: Near Woodward and Interstate 75 area
Lowdown: A 350-room hotel and part of the District Detroit project, which is comprised of 50 blocks, six theaters, five neighborhoods and four pro sports teams. The immediate area’s Little Caesars Arena is the new home of the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons.
Location: Seated in the historic Cass Corridor of Midtown Detroit, in the historical 1898 El Moore building
Address: 624 W. Alexandrine St.
Age: 2 years old
Lowdown: Comprised of several apartments and 11 hotel rooms
Neat Feature: In the common parlor area, residents and guests can meet over complimentary coffee and breakfast in the morning.
Go Green!: The building promotes sustainable urban living with solar panels, holding tanks for rainwater, and more.
Location: Near Grand Circus Park
Address: 33 John R St.
Age: Scheduled for November 2018 opening
Lowdown: Built in 1925, the Neogothic Metropolitan Building has been vacant for 40 years and is being transformed into lodging with 110 rooms. It will accommodate guests who need extended stays, with larger closets, a kitchen, etc.
Space Details: Expect about 2,000 square feet of meeting space on the second-floor mezzanine, 7,000 square feet of retail space and a rooftop bar.
Partner Insights: “The hotel will help meet demand for high-caliber extended stay lodging in downtown Detroit, as well as address the growing demand for business and leisure travel to downtown, particularly given its close proximity to the city’s top entertainment attractions,” reports David Di Rita, a partner with the Roxbury Group. “With its historic appeal, smart design and diverse offerings, it’ll serve an important role in the growth of the city and in our ongoing drive to preserve the city’s architectural gems,” he adds.
Location: In the former Detroit Fire Department headquarters, across from the bustling Cobo Center
Address: 250 W. Larned St.
Age: 1 year old
Lowdown: 100 hotel rooms, an on-site restaurant with a Michelin-star chef, fitness center, and a recording studio in The Foundation Studio. The Foundation also is winner of Contract’s 2018 Interiors Award in the hotel category.
The Look: Combines the historical architecture of the 1920s, including the original firehouse doors and accents, with a modern design.
Address: 1400 Woodward Ave.
Age: Scheduled to open fall 2018
A True Blockout: Eight floors, 130 rooms and 16,000 square feet of food, beverage and retail stretching a full block
Design: Detroit-inspired design by Gachot Studios and architecture by Kraemer Design Group
All’s Fare: The New York-based Noho Hospitality Group will be providing the food and beverage initiative
Good Connection: The hotel will be connected to an activated alleyway with restaurants and retail
Terra-True: Architect Wirt C. Rowland, who was working for the firm Baxter, O’Dell and Halpin, used terra cotta on the Rayl’s department store at 1400 Woodward Ave. back in 1915. One hundred years later, the elaborately detailed red tiled façade, which is being painstakingly restored, honors that original quality craftsmanship.
Location: In the 14-story 1926 Wurlitzer Building
Address: 1509 Broadway
Age: About three months
Lowdown: More than 100 rooms, as well as two retail shops, seven food and beverage spaces, and a rooftop deck make up this $20 million makeover.
In Good Taste: A tasting counter called Albena, a Candy Bar cocktail stop, and a Populace Coffee Bar are delicious highlights. “The masterminds behind these food and beverage experiences are a group of unique local entrepreneurs whose concepts, brands, and style form a patchwork of Detroit’s best local flavor,” says General Manager Noah Ponte.
Location: Located in the revived Corktown neighborhood
Address: 1331 Trumbull St.
Age: Opened in 2016; massive renovation completed summer 2017
Lowdown: Opened in the 1960s as a Holiday Inn, it eventually became independently owned until it was purchased a little more than three years ago (October 2014). Then its $13 million transformation began and it’s now Detroit’s first artisan boutique hotel.
Details: The Corktown meeting room ensures that Corktown honors Irish immigrants who fled the potato famine in 1845 to settle in the hotel’s neighborhood. 144 guest rooms, a spacious fitness center, the Red Dunn Kitchen restaurant, and outdoor courtyard round out offerings. Custom furniture built by Michigan artisans.
By the Numbers: “Our meeting space is intimate and ideal for groups of up to 100,” says Director of Sales Ruth Butler.
Go Team!: “Our concierge will arrange true-to-Detroit team-building experiences nearby,” Butler says.
Re-source-ful: Partners include Detroit Bikes (building custom bikes for guest use), Crazy Fresh Coffee and Batch Brewing Co., which gives guests a taste of Detroit.