North America

Green light for redevelopment of Detroit’s Huntington Place

Flagship Detroit exhibition venue Huntington Place is to be renovated in a project that will see a new hotel attached with over 600 rooms.

The Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority board has announced it has agreed a deal with local developer Sterling Group.

Authority board chairman and president and CEO of Visit Detroit Claude Molinari said the new project would also aim to improve access to the convention centre, home to the North American International Auto Show.

“Our intention is to connect Second Street all the way to the river, which will also work to the advantage of the Joe Louis Arena site,” said Molinari. “We’ll be able to improve the loading dock, which is completely inadequate for the current building, put some parking together… which will support the hotel,” he added.

A second ballroom could be added to the centre to meet growing demand. It currently offers 723,000 square feet (67,000sqm) of exhibition space and a 40,000 square-foot ballroom, the largest in Michigan.

The agreement with the developers comes after the signing into law in December 2022 of new legislation that would allow for an expansion of Huntington Place. The facility authority can now enter into public-private agreements and exceed the current $279m spending cap.

Molinari said the idea now was to talk to the banks about a bond to support the financing of the project.

“There are events that are choosing not to come here simply because they would have to shuttle-bus their attendees and that’s just not optimal, especially when you have choices in other cities like Houston or in Indianapolis where they’ve got 2,000 rooms connected to the convention centre,” Molinari said.

Visit Detroit has revealed the city lost 564,000 room nights in the last five years because of lack of hotel capacity. That equated to more than $300m lost in direct spending.

According to global hospitality data and analytics company STR, hotel occupancy in central Detroit was 52% at the year to end of October 2022, up from 34% in the same period in 2021. Pre-pandemic, in October 2019, that figure was 70%.

Other hotel openings are due in Detroit this spring, including the Cambria Hotel Detroit Downtown on Lafayette Boulevard in February and Corktown’s Godrey Hotel a little later. The Westin Book Cadillac is undergoing a $20m renovation.

The city hopes to add 5,000 rooms by the end of the decade.


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