Ilitches offer rare look inside empty building: Eddystone next to Little Caesars Arena

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Detroit – For the first time in years, the powerful Ilitch organization gave a brief glimpse inside one of its empty buildings Monday.  

The vacant  13-story structure — the former Hotel Eddystone — stands near Little Caesars Arena, the sprawling sports and entertainment complex on the northern edge of downtown. The Italian Renaissance-style building opened in 1924 and closed sometime in the late 1990s, said Ilitch officials.  It was last used as a cheap hotel, according to various historical accounts. 

Exterior of the Eddystone Hotel.

 "Being part of the restoration of this iconic building is totally rewarding," said Zarah Broglin, vice president of construction for Olympia Development of Michigan, the real estate unit of the Ilitch organization.

Inside, the building is essentially an empty shell, with crews working to clean it out since August, officials said. In fall 2021, a $35 million renovation should be finished. The building will have around 95 residential units, with 20% reserved for affordable housing.  Retail is planned for the ground floor.

The Eddystone is one of 48 vacant buildings in Detroit owned by an entity linked to the Ilitch organization, ranging from empty warehouses and boarded-up homes to historic structures, according to a Detroit News analysis. The last historic buildings the Ilitch group restored and filled with tenants were the Fox Theatre and the Hockeytown Cafe back in the late 1980s. 

The main lobby of the former Eddystone hotel with its honey-colored common brick.

The Ilitch organization is one of Detroit's most influential companies. Different branches of the family-run business own the Little Caesars pizza chain, and the Red Wings and Tigers pro sports teams.

Entities linked to the group run or control some of the city's most popular venues: the arena, the Fox, Comerica Park and MotorCity Casino Hotel. The major venues represent part of the estimated $1.5 billion investment by the Ilitch family. The group is often hailed by city leaders as trailblazers for investing in the city when most companies fled.

A view looking towards downtown from the 13th floor of the Eddystone Hotel.

But other properties like the Eddystone have remained in limbo — often for years, if not decades. Ilitch-linked entities currently own or control 154 unused properties, according to an ongoing analysis of public property records by The News.

The Eddystone is not the only property surrounding the Little Ceasars Arena that remains empty. There's a group of vacant parcels along Woodward and Henry that Ilitch group recently said it would need three more years to develop. The group originally vowed to fill that area by 2018 with a 300- to 400-room hotel and row of retail.

Twitter: @LouisAguilar_DN