Imagine a set of childhood toy building blocks on steroids. That’s the basic concept behind a Detroit hotel’s plans to repurpose old shipping containers as sleeping quarters. Collision Works, a 16,000-square-foot hotel that will sit on an acre of land near the Dequindre Cut in Eastern Market, is scheduled for completion next year, and a pop-up model is slated to open this spring.
“My inspiration was to do a project that had meaning and value to the local community,” says Shel Kimen, the visionary behind Collision Works. The Michigan State University graduate lived in New York for most of her life, where she worked primarily in advertising — until deciding on a new career that could make a difference.
Originally, Kimen looked for buildings to renovate but didn’t have any luck near her favorite area, Eastern Market. She’s since teamed up with George Cooper from Koop Architecture & Media because of his experience working with shipping containers. “When I [realized] I could build it from scratch using shipping containers,” Kimen says, “it reopened the Eastern Market area.”
Shipping containers just “make sense,” Kimen says, because they can speed up the building process, they’re cost-effective, and they’re more durable than other materials. Kimen plans to procure the containers locally and to teach Detroit builders how to use them. She hopes to work with as many reclaimed materials as possible. “As much of the space that can be reused material,” she says, “the better.”
The hotel will offer roughly 36 rooms, a 3,000- square-foot event venue, an outdoor courtyard, and a community workspace. Kimen hopes that Collision Works will be more than a hotel. She wants to create a place where ideas can come together, and plans to incorporate mentoring programs.
“We all have things to teach, and we all have things to learn,” she says, adding that the mentoring programs will only begin once she learns what the community wants and needs.
Kimen would also like the hotel to be a place for the people of Detroit to reclaim something she thinks they’ve lost: their stories. The Collision Works team believes that stories help create thriving, sustainable communities.
Until last September, Collision Works was known as the Detroit Hotel Project. The new name comes from the idea that collisions can be terrifying and exciting. “Collision … works,” Kimen says. “It brings us together, and that’s the first and most important part of building any community.”