Detroit’s emerging assortment of curated accommodations with smaller room counts is transcending guest expectations.
A crop of new hotels has sprung up across downtown Detroit. And it’s changing the accommodations landscape in The D.
From Midtown to Corktown, from the edge of Grand Circus Park to the shadow of Cobo Center, Detroit’s newest lodging has come in the form of boutique hotels — establishments with fewer than 150 rooms — and, thanks to their smaller size, highly personalized service. Boutique lodging also promises distinctive architecture and a tangible sense of place. Have an overnight experience in one of Detroit’s boutique hotels, and your stay will resemble no place else in the world.
“There was a good deal of wealth in Detroit in the 1920s,” explained Michael Hodges, author of Building the Modern World: Albert Kahn in Detroit, “and so there are simply a lot of historic buildings here to choose from. And in many cases, these buildings have been empty or underutilized, and real estate prices are relatively low.”
That combination made Detroit ripe for development by boutique hotels, said Hodges, some of them now occupying structures designed by masters like Albert Kahn and Daniel Burnham.
The uptick in stylish hotels is a welcome sign to Mark Denson, senior director of business development for the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. “Boutique hotels add cachet to the city,” said Denson. “They help visitors re-engage with Detroit.”
But he stresses that cool hotels aren’t an end in themselves. They thrive only when Detroit succeeds in enticing visitors to stay. Developments like the QLine, Little Caesars Arena and the expanded Detroit International RiverWalk, among others, have done just that.
“For Detroiters that remember the history behind these buildings, seeing them reopen offers a source of pride,” said Denson. “They’re a mark of the turnaround of this great city.”
The Siren Hotel
1509 Broadway St. • Detroit
Year Opened: 2018
Price Point: From $139 per night
Food + Fun: Albena, Populace Coffee, Candy Bar lounge and, coming fall 2018, Karl’s restaurant and Sid Gold’s Request Room
General Vibe: Midcentury hipster
Distinctive Amenities: James Beard nominee Garrett Lipar is the lead at Albena; chef Kate Williams of Detroit’s Lady of the House, voted one of America’s 13 best new restaurants per GQ magazine, heads up Candy Bar and will take the helm of Karl’s restaurant
Nearby Attractions: Detroit Opera House, Fox Theatre, Comerica Park, Ford Field Historic Tidbit: The hotel is set within the 1926 Wurlitzer Building, formerly one of the world’s largest music stores
In Greek mythology, sirens lured sailors with their enchanting music and irresistible singing. It’s an apt symbol for The Siren Hotel, which opened in early 2018 within the former Wurlitzer Music Center, a 14-story building where pianos, organs, jukeboxes, radios and musical instruments were once sold and repaired.
After years of sitting empty, The Siren Hotel charms guests from the moment they enter. Travertine floors and an illuminated midcentury “Reception” sign light up a furnished lobby with community tables and the Populace Coffee bar. Pink- and navy-hued rooms range from cozy bunk bed lofts to an upper-story penthouse with knockout views of downtown. All rooms feature terrazzo tiles and hand-loomed blankets adorned with mermaids. The vivid pink Candy Bar with its massive chandelier and disco ball has already become legendary (make a reservation). And true to the building’s original roots, a piano karaoke bar, Sid Gold’s Request Room, opens this fall.
The El Moore Lodge
624 W. Alexandrine St. • Detroit
Year Opened: 2016
Price Point: From $75 per night
Food + Fun: Complimentary continental breakfast
General Vibe: Contemporary and neighborly
Distinctive Amenities: Historic architecture retrofitted with eco-friendly technology
Nearby Attractions: Midtown attractions, shopping and dining
Historic Tidbit: Was an eight-unit apartment complex, built in 1898
The El Moore aims to share its Midtown neighborliness with the travelers who walk through its doors. It’s a practice that happens easily here, where 12 of the building’s 23 units are residential.
“We want visitors to feel they are a part of our neighborhood,” said Jason Peet, general manager of the The El Moore. Residents and visitors frequently meet over continental breakfast in the morning, he said, and it’s only natural that residents would share insider secrets.
The El Moore’s management relishes this grand old building’s 120-year history. But they have prepared it for the next 120 years. Renovations in 2016 outfitted The El Moore with geothermal heating and cooling, rooftop solar panels and rain capture systems to reduce water usage. And the extensive use of natural light and fresh air ventilation not only keeps visitors feeling refreshed and comfortable but allows them to feel that they’ve done right by the environment.
1 Park Ave. • Detroit
Year Opened: 2014
Price Point: From $179 per night
Food + Fun: WXYZ Bar, Remix lounge
General Vibe: Contemporary
Distinctive Amenities: Camp Aloft children’s program, pet friendly, access to Grand Circus Park People Mover station
Nearby Attractions: Detroit Opera House, Fox Theatre, Comerica Park, Ford Field
Historic Tidbit: Located in the David Whitney Building, designed by pre-eminent American architect Daniel Burnham
When the Beaux Arts David Whitney Building opened in 1915, jaws dropped. Inside was one of the nation’s most dramatic atriums, a four-story terra cotta and marble lobby capped with an immense skylight.
A century later, the vast lobby still impresses, now in a space occupied by the Aloft Detroit hotel. According to author Michael Hodges, “The Aloft’s lobby, with its huge skylight, is one of Detroit’s great undiscovered interior public spaces.”
Guest rooms have a clean, contemporary look, with walls and ceilings of neutral hues. Pops of color come from the rooms’ throw pillows, carpeting and desk chairs, brilliant gem tones of red, yellow, royal blue and green that stand out against the taupe walls. The Aloft’s location is tough to beat. The hotel sits on Grand Circus Park with easy access to the Detroit People Mover and QLine.
The Inn on Ferry Street
84 E. Ferry St. • Detroit
Year Opened: 2001
Price Point: From $179 per night
Food + Fun: Complimentary breakfast
General Vibe: Historic elegance
Distinctive Amenities: Member of Historic Hotels of America; period art and antiques throughout
Nearby Attractions: Cultural District, Wayne State University campus
Historic Tidbit: The inn’s 19th-century Queen Anne residences were designed by architect John Scott, who also designed the Old Wayne County Building on Randolph Street
Once a collection of four elegant upper middle-class residences and their carriage houses, the buildings that comprise The Inn on Ferry Street were restored to their original grandeur in the 1990s, “when nobody was redoing old buildings in Detroit,” said author Michael Hodges. “It was an early and, at the time, seemingly over-optimistic vote of confidence in Detroit’s revival.”
The owners’ move to renovate the Victorian buildings appears brilliant in hindsight as The Inn on Ferry Street enjoys an envied location in the Cultural District. It’s an easy walk to the Detroit Historical Museum and the Detroit Institute of Arts, among other museums.
Each meticulously restored room at the inn features lush bedding and period furniture, four-poster beds and the occasional fireplace. Common areas in each “house” recall the elegance of 1890s Detroit: creamy lace curtains, thickly upholstered sofas and richly polished woodwork. In the morning, a hearty hot breakfast awaits.
Trumbull & Porter
1331 Trumbull ave. • Detroit
Year Opened: 2016
Price Point: From $139 per night
Food + Fun: Red Dunn Kitchen, Burroughs Lounge
General Vibe: Midcentury hip
Distinctive Amenities: Pet and kid friendly, outdoor entertainment area with community fire pit, midcentury architecture made comfortable with Detroit-made amenities
Nearby Attractions: Corktown for shopping, dining and drinks
Historic Tidbit: Formerly a Holiday Inn, this hotel was once a favorite of Detroit Tigers fans when the team played at old Tiger Stadium on Trumbull Avenue
In the 1960s, the Detroit Tigers were red hot, and all of those sports enthusiasts needed a modern hotel. A Holiday Inn was built at the corner of Trumbull Avenue and Porter Street, just two blocks from Tiger Stadium, and came complete with an underground pool.
Once the Tigers left for Comerica Park in 2000, the Holiday Inn fell into horrible disrepair. “I never, ever thought that building would be turned into anything nice,” said author Michael Hodges, who found himself deeply impressed when the property resurrected itself as the trendy Trumbull & Porter in 2016. “I was completely flabbergasted when it happened.”
The boutique hotel is instantly recognizable by the Don Kilpatrick mural painted above the building’s porte cochere. Inside, Trumbull & Porter’s polished concrete floors and crisp white decor are brightened with Detroit-made artwork and linens. In the lobby, you’ll find local Crazy Fresh Coffee and Batch beer in a lounge adorned with Burroughs adding machines, a Detroit original.
Detroit Foundation Hotel
250 W. Larned St. • Detroit
Year Opened: 2017
Price Point: From $199 per night
Food + Fun: The Apparatus Room, Chef’s Table
General Vibe: Industrial chic
Distinctive Amenities: Named one of the world’s best new hotels for 2018 by Travel + Leisure; Michelin-starred chef Thomas Lents leads a kitchen where servers wear Detroit Denim; Detroit-made artworks adorn the walls, and Detroit-made goodies like Germack nuts and Bon Bon Bon candy fill minibars
Nearby Attractions: Cobo Center, Hart Plaza, Detroit International RiverWalk
Historic Tidbit: Former Detroit Fire Department headquarters, designed by Detroit architect Hans Gehrke in 1929
There are signs throughout this distinctive downtown hotel that remind visitors of the building’s former life. The old fire pole still stands in the dining room. And the fire headquarters’ oversized doors remain. “I love that they kept the huge arched red wooden doors that the fire engines used to race out of,” said author Michael Hodges. “It’s breathtaking.”
Detroit Foundation Hotel’s guest rooms recall the city’s industrial heritage. Richly finished headboards of reclaimed wood are brightened with swaths of faux Fordite. In-room coffee makers are replaced by automotive fuses, which you trade in for free coffee in The Apparatus Room. And channel-tufted guest room sofas in turquoise and chocolate brown are reminiscent of Detroit’s automotive heyday.
Detroit Foundation Hotel lies within an easy walk of downtown’s major attractions. But you might check out a pair of wheels instead. The hotel offers complimentary use of its stash of Detroit Bikes.