City shares more details on hotel development at former Joe Louis Arena site

Plans for the hotel include a walking bridge connecting it to Huntington Place, which project officials say are vital for attracting major events.

A rendering of an expanded Second Avenue running between the proposed hotel and Huntington Place.

A rendering of an expanded Second Avenue running between the proposed hotel and Huntington Place.

Detroit officials shared details this week on the so-called “Hotel at Water Square” project, that would see a new 25-story hotel built in the city’s downtown.

It would go up next to the Huntington Place convention center, on a vacant plot of land where Joe Louis Arena once stood. City officials say the project would carry a totally investment cost of around $400 million and bring about 600 new hotel rooms to Detroit. Sterling Group, the principal developer on the project, is seeking more than $1 million in tax abatements from the city, which triggered the Community Benefits Ordinance (CBO) process.

The city held its first CBO meeting on Tuesday for residents who would be impacted by the hotel project. The CBO process must be followed when a development receives $1 million or more in city tax abatements, has $75 million or more in construction costs, or when city property is sold or transferred at a cost of $1 million or more for below market value and without open bidding.

The next public meeting for residents impacted by the Hotel at Water Square project will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 16, when the first two members of a neighborhood advisory council will be chosen. Developers hope to break ground on the project by the second quarter of 2024, with hopes to open by 2027.

Visit Detroit President and CEO Claude Molinari says the hotel could help the city attract major events.

“Visit Detroit conducted a five-year study from 2018 to 2022 of conventions that wanted to host their events in Detroit but were not able to, solely because of the lack of hotel capacity,” Molinari said. “In those five years, Detroit has lost out on over one million visitors.”

Blueprints for the development include a skybridge connecting the hotel to Huntington Place, which officials highlight as a key piece of the project.

Molinari said Detroit is different from several other cities its size in that it does not currently have a hotel attached to its main convention center. He says that’s been a disadvantage when booking events.

“In 2023, Visit Detroit made bids to host 160 city-wide conventions that would fill up every hotel. Two-thirds of them told us they did not choose Detroit because we don’t have a connected hotel,” he said.

Project officials say they are in talks with an internationally recognized hotel brand to operate the prospective facility. They have not yet named the company but say that could happen later this year.

A community benefits package proposal will be put together over the coming weeks.

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  • Alex McLenon
    Alex McLenon is a Reporter with 101.9 WDET. McLenon is a graduate of Wayne State University, where he studied Media Arts & Production and Broadcast Journalism.