We were in Detroit to check off another NHL Arena, and this was the final year for the Joe Louis Arena. I wanted something centrally located, and came across the Aloft Detroit at the David Whitney. It was a boutique hotel owned by Starwood, and if we booked in advance, it came to $122 a night.
We arrived on a cold, Thursday night. A cold arctic front was coming from the West, and Detroit was going to experience one of its coldest days that week. Great. Fortunately for us, I hired a car service, who met us at the airport, and took us directly to the hotel, and what a lobby they had!
The David Whitney building looks like it used to be an office building. I looked up the building and discovered that the building was renovated in 2011 and the hotel renovated in 2014.
The building is named for David Whitney Jr., a wealthy Detroiter who earned millions of dollars as a lumber baron dealing in white pine; his father was said to be the employer of Paul Bunyan. The structure was designed by Graham, Burnham & Co., the successor firm to the D.H. Burnham Company.
Appropriately for Detroit, the exterior was originally styled with clean lines in a Neo-Renaissance style faced with terra cotta and glazed brick. The original façade was altered in 1959, when decorative cornices were replaced with a ‘modern’ top. The first four stories of this building contain a large retail atrium. It was one of Detroit’s first major mixed-use projects and was a popular location for many medical offices. The Metro Times, an early alternative weekly, was once published from offices in the highrise. There are 19 floors housing office and retail space with a two-story mechanical penthouse at the rear of the building. The Detroit People Mover’s Grand Circus Park station is located at the first and second floors of this building.
Renovation: In January 2011, the Detroit Downtown Development Authority approved a $1 million loan to help Whitney Partners LLC purchase and renovate the building. Their plan included creating a mixed-use building and restoring the decorative exterior elements that were removed in 1959 and the four-story lobby. The purchase was completed in March and the new owners sought additional funding and tax credits to finance their plans for a boutique hotel, apartments and retail. In December 2011, plans moved another step when the partnership announced it signed an agreement with the Aloft division of Starwood Hotels to operate the 136-room hotel. The hotel occupies floors two through nine of the building with 108 high-end apartment units on floors ten and above. The $92 million renovation began in March 2013 and was completed in December 2014.
Our room was on the 9th floor, the highest the hotel had to offer. We had a magnificent view of the Comerica Park, and in the distance, the Music Hall building. The room was beautifully decorated, but functionally it lacked a lot of things. For one, it lacked insulation from the cold weather, and from the noise. We could hear the giggling women passing our door, and as you stepped closer to the window, you could feel the temperature drop. The hotel also lacked storage space. The closet held, if lucky, a handful of dress shirts or dresses, or a couple of heavy coats. We had to drape our outer coats on the only chair in the room, which was by the desk.
The closet itself also had no shelves to put your clothes, and there was a coffee maker taking up most of the room. We literally lived out of our suitcase, and placed our suitcases on one of the 2 desks by the window. Under 1 of the desk was a dorm style refrigerator, which the hotel could have easily used to build shelves or but a small chest of drawers.
Aside from the non functionality of the room, it was a nice hotel. They provided coffee and tea in the convenience store (called “Refresh”) 24/7 but the coffee or the supplies wasn’t always stocked or refilled 24/7.
The hotel was located literally next to the People Mover, Detroits monorail type transit which circles the downtown area. This People Mover takes 15 minutes to make a complete loop, and there was an exit at the Joe Louis Arena which made it a perfect hotel to stay.