Metropolitan Building to welcome guests for first time in 40 years

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Detroit — Once vandalized by graffiti and thieves, the Metropolitan Building, soon to open as the Element Hotel, sits lit in its former terra cotta, brick and granite glory Monday.

During a dedication ceremony, Mayor Mike Duggan and the hotel's developers welcomed guests to the 14-story Neo-Gothic structure's fully restored Great Hall for the first time since it closed nearly 40 years ago.

"In a very real sense, the Metropolitan represents the city's whole story of birth, decay and rebirth in one building," said David Di Rita, principal of Detroit's Roxbury Group, which with Detroit-based Means Group redeveloped the building. "It's the ultimate only- in-Detroit story, because ... only in the Detroit of this century would that building be rescued of near-certain demise and given back to the city in a way the original builders could never imagine."

Guests walk up the grand staircase inside the renovated Metropolitan building.

The gathering space at the extended-stay hotel, the first in Michigan, is expected to open on a limited basis before the end of the year, De Rita said. Reservations will be available in January. Rates will start below $200, De Rita said.

The Element Detroit at 33 John R St., just east of Woodward Avenue, is part of Marriott International's Starwood Collection. Featuring kitchens and multiple rooms, its 110 one- and two-bedroom rooms are meant to serve guests for longer trips.

The 100,000-square-foot building will have 2,000 square feet of meeting space on the second-floor mezzanine level and about 7,000 square feet of retail and dining on the ground floor and lower level. The Metropolitan will have three restaurants that are expected to open early next year, including a rooftop cocktail lounge called the Monarch Club with outdoor terraces on its top floors.

Metropolitan Hotel Partners, the joint venture between Roxbury and Means, invested $33 million in the 1925-built skyscraper's makeover. It purchased the building, designed by the Detroit-based Weston & Ellington firm, for $250,000 in the summer of 2017 from the Downtown Development Authority after the Means Group stabilized and secured the building.

The Metropolitan was home to jewelers, a dress shop and other retailers. The city foreclosed on the property in the late 1970s and boarded up broken windows. The historic building was at risk of being demolished four years ago.

Duggan said a city inspection found the Metropolitan to be structurally sound and could be a "jewel again."

"The first year I was here, the surrounding building owners sent me panicked messages, 'You've got to knock this building down. It's going to fall in on us; pieces are falling on us,'" he said. "This was exactly the right team to come in an see possibility when all other people could see was decay."

Roxbury Group also restored the historic David Whitney Building into an Aloft Hotel in downtown, transformed the Plaza office building in Midtown into apartments and most recently completed construction on the Griswold downtown. The Means Group redeveloped the Woodward Garden Development with the renovation of the historic Garden Theater.

The Metropolitan's Grand Hall features red-, yellow-, and blue-tile designs on the walls and will include a public lounge. In addition to meeting space, the second floor also has a community kitchen, where the hotel will serve breakfast to guests.

The building links the bustling Broadway Street and Woodward. It shares an alley with the swanky John Varvatos store on Woodward and the Wurlitzer Building, home to the boutique Siren Hotel.

The Metropolitan project was supported by financing from Huntington Bank and Develop Minigan Inc. and received new market tax credits, historic tax credits and a $6.5 million grant from the Michigan Community Revitalization Program.

"We want this place to be a gathering space," De Rita said. "We hope people will feel welcome."