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Old Posted Jun 9, 2006, 4:17 PM
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Michi Michi is offline
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Great News!

The Pick-Fort Shelby Hotel in downtown Detroit will reopen as a Doubletree hotel after its $73 million renovation project.

Pick-Fort Shelby restoration plans humming
Developers find no major surprises with project for apartments, hotel, conference center.

Dorothy Bourdet / The Detroit News

John T. Greilick / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- Engineers and environmental experts are sizing up the historic Pick-Fort Shelby on Lafayette as plans to restore the building as a hotel move forward.

"What you see right now is some preliminary stuff going on. We don't want to have to do something (to the building) that we didn't anticipate doing," said Emmett Moten, one of several local investors on the project's development team.

The recent flurry of activity is a good sign the hotel is on track for the $73 million renovation project, which has been in the works for several years.

So far, workers haven't run into any major surprises, Moten said. Plans include a 204-suite hotel, a 40,000-square-foot conference center and 63 apartments that may be later sold as condos.

"I think it's going to do great in the marketplace," Moten said.

Developers hope to finalize the purchase of the property and start construction in time to complete the hotel by December 2007.

The apartments, which will average 1,200 square feet, should be finished by spring or early summer of 2008.

Moten said the views from higher floors will be well worth the wait. "It will blow your mind once you get up there and all those apartments have a view of the river," he said.

The hotel, built in 1918, was once a landmark in the city's central business district but was closed in the 1970s.

Renewed interest in the building is a positive sign for the city, said Michael O'Callaghan, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"If developers are actually going to put money into renovating an old hotel … it signifies health," he said. "It indicates that people believe that downtown Detroit is rebounding."

Despite a weak corporate base in Detroit, convention organizers and leisure visitors are now giving the city a second look, O'Callaghan said.

"The leisure picture is changing to our favor, and I think some of that can be credited to the Super Bowl," O'Callaghan said.

Hotel consultants say the conference center's certification by the International Association of Conference Centers is also likely to draw more business. Although Michigan ranks last in the United States in hotel occupancy, Metro Detroit is doing better than the rest of the state, O'Callaghan said.

Another bright spot is the Hotel Pontchartrain. The 25-story hotel is scheduled for a $12 million renovation that will add 54 suites and make over its 364 guest rooms, ballroom, 13 meeting rooms, lobby and restaurant, while adding a health and fitness complex and indoor pool. All mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems also will be refurbished.

The Fort Shelby will operate as a DoubleTree hotel, a Hilton Hotels Corp. brand.

The development group heading the project includes Moten; developer Leo Phillips; Eugene M. Curtis and Associates, an income property brokerage firm in Birmingham; and Rich Curto, principal of RSC & Associates LLC, a real estate investment and development firm in Chicago.

This is a very important project, because as you can see from the map, the P-F-S is on the west side of downtown which has not enjoyed the same kind of reinvestment as the Woodward Corridor and areas east of it. There is little-to-no residential in that section of the CBD.
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