Is Detroit the Next Big Boutique Hotel Destination?

Hockeytown transforms into Hoteltown with five exciting properties on the horizon.

Is Detroit the Next Big Boutique Hotel Destination?

Detroit is continuing to bounce back.

Courtesy of The Detroit Foundation Hotel

Sports fans know Detroit as the home of the Pistons or the Red Wings; music lovers know it as the birthplace of Motown and Eminem; car aficionados know it as the mecca of all things automotive. But Detroit as a boutique hotel hub?

It’s not so far-fetched. The city has been getting back on its feet since a 2013 bankruptcy filing, but since then, UNESCO designated it a City of Design, the city’s NHL and NBA teams both returned downtown to play at Little Caesar’s Arena in 2017, and anchor employers like JPMorgan Chase have been working to revive the middle class. Thanks to affordable real estate prices and a strong sense of local pride for showcasing Motor City’s artistic, architectural, and culinary talent, a number of companies, both boutique and big name, are planting (or deepening) hospitality roots there. Here are five key places to keep your eye on as you plan a trip to Detroit.

Street view of The Apparatus Room at The Detroit Foundation Hotel

Street view of The Apparatus Room at The Detroit Foundation Hotel

Photo by Joe Vaughn/Detroit Foundation Hotel

The Detroit Foundation Hotel

Add this place to the list of hotels that used to be something completely different. What was once the Detroit Fire Department Headquarters is now a 100-room hotel about to celebrate its first birthday in May. The spirit of reuse—and support for local businesses—abounds. See it in the custom wallpaper by Detroit Wallpaper Co., the headboards made of salvaged local wood from Architectural Salvage Warehouse, and the enthusiastic promotion of Detroit makers and artists in the hotel shop.

The Detroit Foundation Hotel is also indicative of the developing culinary scene in the Motor City. Two-starred Michelin chef (and Michigander) Thomas Lents returned to his home state to oversee the Foundation’s food and beverage, which takes a New American bent. At The Apparatus Room, get a homey smoked rib eye or mushroom farro risotto; at The Chef’s Table, share a meal of eight to 12 courses with up to a dozen of your fellow guests. Starting this spring, Chef’s Table is also collaborating with other local chefs as they experiment with new menus or try out preview menus for unopened restaurants. On March 18, chef Anthony Lombardo will begin his sold-out, six-night takeover to preview his menu for the forthcoming SheWolf, featuring Roman cuisine.

One interesting way the hotel has stayed grounded with the local community is with its podcast recording studio. Anyone can book studio time for access to the sound equipment and cool floor-to-ceiling windowed, street-facing space, and many people have taken advantage of the resource to hone their storytelling skills. “It’s cool to be a part of those conversations and see what people are passionate about,” says Jennifer Lee, the hotel’s director of lifestyle. “It keeps us connected to the people living and working in our city.”

The Siren Hotel

In Greek mythology, sirens lured sailors to shipwreck. This one, occupying the renovated Wurlitzer building, will be a lot more friendly. “The idea of having a beacon that calls people back home to Detroit resonated with us,” explains Ari Heckman, founding partner and CEO of hotel developers ASH NYC, when asked about the name. “To address the mischievous connotation, all of our hotels are a little bit sexy, a little bit dangerous—we want to have something that keeps you intrigued.”

They’ve been working hard to capture that mysterious vibe as they renovate the 1926 Renaissance Revival building left vacant for 36 years; it was once home to the Wurlitzer music store. Although few historic photos of the building’s interior were available, the team took their design cues from the building’s bones: coffered ceilings with the original Wurlitzer family crest, original travertine and terrazzo floors. Anywhere we found that sort of value, we maintained and amplified it,” says Heckman. “ The building has different moods and spirits and vibes as you go from space to space.”

Get a warm welcome at The Siren Hotel.

Get a warm welcome at The Siren Hotel.

Courtesy of The Siren Hotel

Seven different places to eat and drink will keep guests and locals alike fed and watered, among them Albena, a cozy eight-seat, tasting-menu-only restaurant by James Beard Award-nominee Garrett Lipar; Karl’s, a “not-so-greasy spoon” helmed by Detroit native chef Kate Williams; and Candy Bar, a craft cocktail lounge. Dining and imbibing won’t be the only activities The Siren offers. Test your go-to song selection at the in-house piano karaoke bar, or get gussied up at the barber shop for a night on the town. Rooms are available starting this weekend for a soft opening; expect a grand opening, with all the retail and dining spaces, by summer’s end.

The Shinola Hotel

The upscale maker of watches, leather goods, and bicycles will open its first hotel this November in downtown Detroit, only a couple miles from its flagship store. Staying true to the Detroit-born Shinola brand, the hotel will collaborate with local craftspeople to furnish and provide fixtures for the space, which will have 130 rooms. But it will be more than just a place to sleep.

The Shinola Hotel will have 130 rooms and plenty of nearby retail.

The Shinola Hotel will have 130 rooms and plenty of nearby retail.

Courtesy of Shinola Hotel

“We’re also helping to curate the entire block so the whole place is a destination,” says Shinola creative director Daniel Caudill. “The shopping, the hotel, the bars—it’ll be the complete package so there are things to do for all different types of visitors, from families to friends.” There will also be a Shinola store with products exclusive to the hotel shop. Besides being Shinola’s home, Detroit made sense for the hotel opening for the city’s hospitality. “There is really an amazing sense of community and welcoming here,” says Caudill. “And that will be reflected in the hotel. From the time that you pull up to the valet to the time you leave, you will feel at home, you will feel welcome.”

Element Detroit at The Metropolitan

The Roxbury Group, the same Detroit-based company that successfully adapted the David Whitney building into an Aloft hotel, is working its magic on The Metropolitan downtown. Element hotels, which are part of Marriott’s portfolio, focus on extended stays and green living, which will bring a slightly different feel to the lodging offerings in the area. Representatives from Marriott say that the Neo-Gothic tower will have 110 guest rooms and is expected to open sometime late fall. “We’re excited to reveal the original craftsmanship and personality found in every last stone detail of this building,” says Jeff Zogg, vice president of Azul Hospitality Group.

Views in downtown Detroit include art deco buildings like the Penobscot and David Stott.

Views in downtown Detroit include art deco buildings like the Penobscot and David Stott.

Photo by Andrey Bayda/

Plans for food, beverage, and retail haven’t been revealed yet, but there will definitely be a rooftop bar called The Monarch Club at The Metropolitan. “We hope The Monarch Club presents an experience that harkens back to the Motor City’s first gilded age while offering a front-row seat to its next,” says Zogg. We suspect the 19-story-high view of Detroit will go well with the cocktails.

West Elm

The West Elm hotel in Detroit was announced in 2016 by the high-end home goods company, which joined the ranks of similar brands such as Restoration Hardware to get into the hotel game. Details are still slim, but here’s what we know: The design-driven property will escape the cluster of downtown hotels by locating itself 1.5 miles north, in Midtown, near the Museum of Contemporary Art. The hotel will also have a concierge-style app to make sure guests have the perks of personalized recommendations (or other experiences, like late check-out or booking a workspace) at the touch of a button. And if the stylish bedding West Elm sells is any indication, guests will catch plenty of good ZZZs in a well-appointed room once it opens, likely in 2019.

>>Next: The 10 Most Anticipated Hotel Openings of 2018

Sara Button is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience.
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