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Old Posted Jan 30, 2007, 2:28 AM
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skyfan skyfan is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2004
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Restoring Detroit's Glory

The Detroit News started the first in a series of stories this year chronicling the restoration of two of Detroit's long vacant, historic hotel the Book-Cadillac and the Fort Shelby.

Video touring construction at the Book-Cadillac


Video tour the Fort Shelby


Once the city's pre-eminent hotel, the updated Book-Cadillac will feature 455 rooms, 67 condos, three restaurants, a spa, a sports bar and shops.

Restoring the glory

Once-grand Book-Cadillac, Pick-Fort Shelby rise from ruins

Louis Aguilar / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- In a year that seems to promise more economic body blows for this region, two of its architectural gems are striking an optimistic pose as they regain their former glory.

Skeptics recall other false starts to restore downtown Detroit's Book-Cadillac and Pick-Fort Shelby hotels, but developers involved in the current plans are upbeat. And historic preservationists are savoring the chance to revive part of the city's shining past.

The venerable high-rise hotels -- once symbols of Detroit's glamorous history as the nation's hub of innovation and productivity, now pillaged hulks -- have drawn millions of dollars in investment to the city's center.

Indeed, two $1 million-plus condominiums already have been sold -- sight unseen -- at the Book-Cadillac site, developers say. That's a milestone price and a vote of confidence in the city's revitalization.

"I've been in the economic development business for Detroit since about 1984 (and) I remember a time we had a ton of available buildings and absolutely nobody to invest in them," said George Jackson, president of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., a quasi-public agency that promotes economic development in the city. "Currently, if I have a property that is priced appropriately, I have no problem finding a developer."

The $180 million Book-Cadillac deal has a whopping 22 pieces of financing that includes state, federal and city tax incentives. "I've always said we should be in the Guinness Book of World Records to put that deal together," given all the different pieces of financing, Jackson said.

Monumental project begins

The Book-Cadillac is hailed as the biggest renovation project in downtown Detroit since the Fox Theatre was restored in the late 1980s. First opened in 1924, the Book-Cadillac was the city's pre-eminent hotel for six decades. Presidents, movie stars and gangsters stayed there. It closed in 1984.

Work on the Book-Cadillac, at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Michigan Avenue, began in the fall and more than 300 workers are at the site.

Its official name now is the Westin Book-Cadillac. Developers promise a 455-room Westin hotel, 67 upscale condominiums, three nationally known restaurants, a spa, a sports bar and retail shops.

A fight to save Detroit's past

The recent $73 million deal to renovate the former Pick-Fort Shelby hotel on West Lafayette Boulevard into a Doubletree Guest Suites Hotel, upscale apartments and other retail, epitomizes the tough fight to save Detroit history.

While financing pieces have been found, the developers behind the Pick-Fort Shelby say the complex deal still needs a couple weeks to close. But Detroit economic officials don't foresee it falling apart.

Then begins the massive effort to restore the building. The Detroit News will follow the restoration of the hotels online and in print throughout this year.

Both the Book-Cadillac and the Pick-Fort Shelby are salvageable, experts say, because they have steel and concrete frames even though the interiors are in shambles.

"They may look horrible, but structurally they are sound," said Elisabeth Knibbe, a historical preservationist for Quinn Evans Architects in Ann Arbor. The architect has helped to restore several downtown buildings, often serving as the expert guide on how to bring back the original look of the early 20th century buildings.

Knibbe is working on the Pick-Fort Shelby project. "That building doesn't scare me. A lot of the projects I've worked on in Detroit have looked like" the Pick-Fort Shelby, she said.

Each project takes hundreds of people, from general construction workers who must shovel out decades worth of debris to highly specialized crafts people who will try to recreate the building's look from old photos and the shards of what remains -- a piece of marble staircase or a preserved tile of decorative ceiling from a ballroom.

The Fort Shelby in 1958

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Old Posted Jan 30, 2007, 5:16 AM
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pwright1 pwright1 is offline
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All so grand. Detroit has imo some of the most beautiful old architecture in N.A. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time, perhaps the early to mid 50's to see how Detroit was. The restorations sound awesome.
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Old Posted Jan 30, 2007, 5:19 AM
zilfondel zilfondel is offline
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This is wonderful news! I hope they restore more stuff in Detroit; I for one wouldn't mind visiting the city.

However, an interesting website I found today: http://www.shrinkingcities.com/

What to do about all those cities that are losing population? It's not like the world's cities are going to grow forever... only in the less developed ones.
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Old Posted Jan 30, 2007, 5:39 AM
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pdxstreetcar pdxstreetcar is offline
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Its great seeing these long abandoned grand buildings come back to life. And its even better that developers are lining up to restore them.

pwright this may not get you back to 1950s Detroit but its close...

A good yet somewhat depressing film of Detroit in the 1960s, interesting to note how optimistic they were of the years ahead.

Detroit on the Move - 1965
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Old Posted Jan 30, 2007, 4:56 PM
MolsonExport MolsonExport is offline
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Great news. I wish Detroit the best of success reinvigorating these beautiful but dilapidated buildings.

RoboCop is a 1987 science fiction action movie and satire of business-driven capitalism, directed by Paul Verhoeven. It spawned two sequels, several comic books, multiple video games, two animated series, dozens of action figures and two television series, all featuring a cyborg police officer. The film was produced by Orion Pictures.

The film is set in a dystopian near future, in Detroit, Michigan. Violent crime is out of control, and the city is in financial ruin. The city contracts the megacorporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP) to fund and operate the police department, in effect privatizing it. OCP is not interested in rebuilding "Old Detroit" but with replacing it with a modern utopia called "Delta City". Before this large construction project can begin, OCP wishes to end crime in the city, and creates a superhuman law-enforcement agent known as RoboCop.

The story satirizes Reagonomics and the consumerism of the eighties era, with OCP presented as a massive corporate hulk that controls citizens' lives on all levels of society. Almost no distinction is made between the conduct of top level executives and street criminals, as both are seen occupied with drugs, corrupting society and talking the same catch phrases while conducting their shady affairs ("good business is where you find it").[2]
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Old Posted Jan 30, 2007, 6:44 PM
Exodus Exodus is offline
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That video tour was interesting. Thanks for posting that.
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Old Posted Jan 30, 2007, 7:25 PM
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STLgasm STLgasm is offline
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Go Detroit! One of America's great cities!
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Old Posted Jan 31, 2007, 4:47 AM
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skyfan skyfan is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Detroit
Posts: 592
These are definitely big victories for the city, especially for the Book-Cadillac. The hotel was the city's answer to the Waldorf-Astoria and it became one the ultimate symbols of our decline. Seeing pics like those if its devastated Grand Ballroom, Detroiters for years could only dream that the building would saved. Even after months of work I'm still awe of seeing actual construction taking place.

The ballroom in 1930's

The ballroom in late 1990's

Today. The ballroom is being restored to original condition

Last edited by skyfan; Feb 5, 2007 at 7:16 PM.
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