BY CHRIS ZADOROZNY, Staff Columnist
For the third installment of the revitalization of Detroit, we will take a look at the Westin Book Cadillac and Fort Shelby Hotels. As Detroit becomes a place that people want to go stay a day, night or weekend in, hotels are very important to the revival of Detroit. The two hotels in the downtown area are the big players showing that Detroit does have people that want to stay in the city.
The Westin Book Cadillac Hotel is located on 1114 Washington Blvd. and Michigan Ave. and originally opened in 1924 as the world’s largest hotel at the time. It stands 349 feet with 29 floors. It opened with 1,136 guest rooms, three dining rooms, three ballrooms and a very spacious lobby. It was designed by Louis Kamper and cost $14 million to build. It would undergo renovations throughout its history and many name and ownership changes until it was renovated from 2006-2008 opening back officially in October of 2008.
With the recent renovations, the hotel now has 455 guest rooms and 67 condominium suites. It also has a newly renovated Grand Ballroom (now called the Venetian Ballroom), a new three story addition with an 11,000 square foot ballroom, a pool, hot-tub, fitness center, spa, and additional conference space.
Former New York Yankee great Lou Gehrig stayed in the hotel with the Yankee team in 1939 and had an argument with manager Joe McCarthy in the lobby the day before a game. He told McCarthy to sit him for the game in which he did, ending his 2,130 consecutive games started streak. Gehrig also fainted on the grand staircase which would lead to his diagnosis of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The Fort Shelby Hotel otherwise known as the DoubleTree Guest Suites Fort Shelby/Detroit Downtown is located on 525 West Lafayette Blvd. and First St. in Downtown Detroit. It opened in 1916 as 10 stories, 450 guest room hotel known as the Fort Shelby Hotel, designed by Schmidt, Garden & Martin architects of Chicago. The hotel was so successful that they built a 27 story, 450 guest room addition in 1927 in what was supposed to be the first of two, but the Great Depression halted the second addition.
The building changed ownership and names just like the Book Cadillac until finally being purchased and
renovated in the spring of 2007 by RSC & Associates Inc., Hobbs + Black Associates Inc., L.S. Brinker, and Mccarthy & Smith INC. and finished in December of 2008. It now has 203 guest rooms and 56 apartments. It also has a 21,000 square foot conference center with two ballrooms and 17 breakout rooms.
You can check out the Book Cadillac Hotel at www.bookcadillacwestin.com and the Fort Shelby Hotel by searching Fort Shelby Hotel on Google and clicking on the first link. Both hotels also have some great bars and restaurants. The Book Cadillac has Michael Symon’s Roast Grill (very expensive, professional attire), The Boulevard Room overlooking Washington Blvd, The Motor Bar, Westin Book Cadillac Coffee, and the 24grille. The Boulevard Room is open daily for breakfast and lunch, the Roast Grill is open Monday-Saturday serving dinner, and the Motor Bar is open daily serving lunch, dinner and cocktails. The WBC Coffee is open daily for breakfast, and the 24grille is open daily for lunch and dinner as well as a fully stocked bar.
The DoubleTree Fort Shelby Hotel is smaller but has a great restaurant and bar. The Finn & Porter Restaurant and Round Bar are located inside the hotel just off of Lafayette and Bear Claw Coffee, in between the apartment and hotel entrance. All three restaurants are open daily. The Finn & Porter Restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner while Bear Claw Coffee is open for breakfast and lunch, while the bar area of Finn & Porter also serves lunch and dinner but focuses mainly on the fine wines and cocktails. You can find all restaurants under the dining options on their respective websites.
The occupancy rates for the Metro Detroit area is the best ever in the past four years. The region now has a 67.7% occupancy rate, a 6.7% increase from last year and is only increasing. The recent successes of both hotels are prompting other companies and businesses to look into purchasing other downtown buildings to convert them into high-rise apartments and hotels. We will talk about that next week with the revitalization of Grand Circus Park and the Broderick Tower and David Whitney Building.