Walking to his 3 o’clock meeting one winter day, Claude Molinari, president and CEO of Visit Detroit, huffs and puffs while thinking about challenges to be overcome in the lodging sector. Detroit now ranks fifth nationally in rooms under development or construction, he says, and this should help to counteract the problem of events veering away to Atlanta, Dallas, Indianapolis, and other familiar host cities.
“Over the last five years, we’ve lost over 600,000 room nights for the specific reason that we did not have enough hotel rooms,” Molinari says. “Of that number, 50,000 were lost because we didn’t have a hotel connected to the convention center.”
Detroit is nearly a year away from a signature moment when the 89th annual NFL draft is staged in Campus Martius Park and Hart Plaza. And in April 2027, the NCAA men’s Final Four comes to town. And because of that, hundreds of luxurious rooms are under construction and coming online.
The new or remodeled hotels will variously include patisseries, restaurants, deluxe coffee bars, a couple of rooftop lounges, and even one taco stand, the Detroit Taco Bodega, which was set to open this spring within the Cambria Hotel Downtown Detroit.
A boost came last December with the passage of Michigan Senate Bill 1222, signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, which allows for bond issuances and capital expenditures associated with Huntington Place so it could be expanded to accommodate more business. As a result, the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority — which Molinari chairs — “can now go out for bonds so that we can spur private developers to build additional hotels. We’re working with the Sterling Group to build a hotel connected to the west side of the convention center [Huntington Place] on the former Joe Louis Arena site.”
The continued development ensures that Detroit remains in line for mega-events like sports championships and for big conventions like Busworld North America, which in February brought thousands of group-tour operators to southeast Michigan. In May, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meets in Detroit with trade and travel ministers from many nations.
“It’s very exciting that we’re on the top of these lists,” Molinari says.
Beyond all this, Detroit can look forward to an increase in leisure travelers because of the current, more luxurious, approach to expansion.
“It’s helped position Detroit as an attractive leisure destination with more quality hotel products coming online,” says Romy Bhojwani, director of hospitality analytics at CoStar Group in Washington, D.C. “A lot of the new supply is more lifestyle oriented as opposed to cookie-cutter hotels. That certainly helps the destination to attract more transient and leisure customers — and even group customers.”
Here’s a look at the status of some of the key projects in the works.
Roost Apartment Hotel
- Address: 1265 Washington Blvd., Detroit
- Rooms: 117
- Cost: $300+ million (for historic restoration of the Book Tower)
- Projected opening: Early summer
The long-awaited reopening of Book Tower, which is home to Roost Apartment Hotel
— as well as 229 residential units — is almost upon us.
A crowning achievement of the Book brothers — Frank, Herbert, and J. Burgess Jr. — this 38-story salute to Renaissance Italy combined with the American skyscraper opened in 1926. (The Westin Book Cadillac Hotel numbers among Detroit’s other Book brothers buildings.) Bedrock acquired the tower and adjacent 13-story Book Building in 2015 — 500,000 square feet in all.
The redevelopment incorporates apartments and offices; Roost Apartment Hotel will provide an enticing option for guests who want or need to linger in downtown Detroit. To execute the architectural and interior renovation of the Book Tower, the New York firm ODA was called in. At Roost Apartment Hotel, you will find 117 apartments on floors 4 through 8 with full-size kitchens and downtown views.
If you prefer not to cook, there are two on-site restaurants (one French, one Japanese). Roost’s parent, Method Co. of Philadelphia, will run the lobby bar and lounge.
An indoor/outdoor rooftop bar is available to guests, and an 8,000-square-foot skylit space provides a dramatic setting for select events.
Visit myroost.com for more information.
Cambria Hotel Downtown Detroit
- Address: 600 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit
- Rooms: 154
- Cost: $70 million
Start with the 1936 limestone-faced art deco masterpiece that architect Albert Kahn designed for WWJ Radio, do an adaptive reuse of this building for public spaces, and then add a four-story hotel block atop the existing two-story parking structure. That gives you Cambria Hotel Downtown Detroit.
After enduring the pandemic and port delays, construction managers had the 154- room hotel set to open in March with meeting spaces coming soon after. A fast- growing national chain of boutique hotels, Cambria Hotels is a brand of Choice Hotels International with 66 locations in the United States and another 15 opening this year, says Dawn Barth, director of sales and marketing for the Detroit location.
Krieger Klatt Architects of Royal Oak designed the hotel using prefabricated units that were lifted by crane and assembled atop the car park. A courtyard separates the hotel from the main building, within which two main ballrooms encompass 17,000 square feet. Cibo, a 250-seat Mediterranean-inspired restaurant, will serve three meals a day. A Detroit Taco Bodega will also be in the main building.
“We’ll have charcuterie, pastries, and coffee available for the guests to come down and purchase as well as a walk-up window to the outside for anybody coming to the offices nearby. They can stop and grab a sandwich,” Barth says.
The big surprise is in the basement, which will house Five Iron Golf, a virtual golf experience with 14 bays. And why not bowling? There are two lanes, adding to the potential for team-building exercises.
Visit cambriadetroit.com for more information.
Huntington Place Hotel
- Address: 1 Washington Blvd., Detroit
- Rooms: 600-800
- Cost: N/A
Those 50,000 room nights that evaporated due to lack of a convention-center hotel are being addressed.
“We’re working with the Sterling Group to build a hotel connected to the west side of the convention center on the old Joe Louis Arena site,” Molinari says of a plan announced in January.
Sterling Group owns the site. He forecasts 600 to 800 rooms and hopes for expeditious groundbreaking. A second hotel would make it a dream project. Modifications to Huntington Place are also planned as part of the undertaking.
Visit huntingtonplacedetroit.com for more information.
- Address: 1401 Michigan Ave., Detroit
- Rooms: 227
- Cost: $80+ million
- Projected opening: Summer 2023
Where a ramshackle former taxi garage once stood in Corktown, the handsome seven-story Godfrey Hotel has risen, and owners feel “very positive about June 1” for the opening, according to Aaron Black, general manager.
Black, a veteran of 17 years with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, says the 227-room Godfrey is small in comparison to the average hotel but is a “legitimately large boutique hotel.”
The name Godfrey derives from an ancient European antecedent meaning “peace of God” and implies a hearty welcome. Owned by Oxford Capital Group and operated by Oxford Hotels and Resorts, the new hotel joins other Godfrey locations in Boston, Chicago, Hollywood, and Tampa, Florida. It’s a companion to the Westin Book Cadillac Detroit, another Oxford Capital property.
The Godfrey’s 5,000-square-foot ballroom will allow guests to “stay and celebrate all in one location,” Black says. And the on-site restaurant, Hamilton Restaurant, is crafted by Samy Eid and Chickpea Hospitality.
The Godfrey’s most spectacular feature, the rooftop lounge facing downtown Detroit, will be “a huge hit.” One of the two bars is outfitted with a greenhouse roof that, from Black’s description, is like the roof of a Ford Skyliner retractable-hardtop convertible but with glass panels instead of metal. In the weeks before opening, much effort was going into assuring one thing: “When we finally hit the button, that thing will open and close.”
Visit godfreyhoteldetroit.com for more information.
Westin Book Cadillac Detroit
- Address: 1114 Washington Blvd., Detroit
- Rooms: 453
- Cost: $20 million
- Projected opening: July
In these times of inflation, $20 million will still get you a glorious makeover of the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel. Valiantly hanging on after its, ah, well-timed 2008 opening, the Book Cadillac gained a solid claim for helping to revive downtown. Today, the interior wood trim looks quaint, and general wear and tear must be considered.
The present makeover is five years late for the industry norm of an update every decade. “It became really important to change the look and feel,” says Scott Stinebaugh, the Plymouth native who is the sales and marketing chief. “What you’re going to see is lighter, brighter, and more art deco.”
More specifically, all 453 hotel rooms will now shimmer with new elegance. Roast, the superb restaurant effort of chef Michael Simon, faded away during the pandemic, but the space is going to Michigan’s first Sullivan’s Steakhouse. “I just think the new product is going to be a ‘wow’ factor,” Stinebaugh says.
Visit marriott.com for more information.
Roberts Riverwalk Hotel
- Address: 1000 River Place, Detroit
- Rooms: Undetermined
- Cost: Undisclosed terms
Additional redevelopment of the East Riverfront is the promise in Bedrock’s acquisition of the Roberts Riverwalk Hotel late last fall. It had 108 rooms, a 5,500-square-foot ballroom, and 126 parking spaces. River frontage stretched 290 feet.
Adding the Roberts Riverwalk promises further integration of Bedrock’s riverfront properties. Checking with Bedrock, Hour Detroit found that no update of plans was available, but expect updates in the coming months.
Visit detroitriverfront.org for more information.
This story is part of the May 2023 issue of Hour Detroit. Read more in our Digital Edition.