Last night I had the pleasure of seeing a new Detroit, a Detroit I didn’t know existed. I’ve lived in Michigan nearly three years and have only traveled downtown a handful of times. Each visit was enjoyable and made me appreciate the Motor City a tiny bit more than I had before the visit.
Last night changed all that. I fell in love and learned to truly appreciate the city for its rich architectural history, its future potential and its optimistic presence.
The walking tour theme was centered on the exploration of public art and was sponsored by the Detroit Athletic Club (DAC) and the Urban Land Institute (ULI) .
I learned of this event through Motor City Connect, a local business networking group. (To the person who posted this event – please let me know who you are so I can thank you by name!)
The tour began at the DAC, I had never heard of the Detroit Athletic Club, so I was pleasantly surprised upon entering the building. Established in 1887, the current club house was built in 1913 to the opulent standards reminiscent of that time. I enjoyed a glass of wine in the Reading Room before departing with “Group 7.”
We rushed through the first pieces of public art at Comerica & Grand Circus Parks, stopped for a bit at the “Standing Together” sculpture on Washington Blvd & Clifford Street and caught our breath. We then arrived at the reason for the rush, an interior tour of The Westin Book Cadillac of Detroit.
Currently undergoing the finishing touches of its epic renovation, we were all interested to see the changes a $180 million investment produced. The last time I had seen this building was the first year I moved to the area, and it was just a sad, sad sight.
What a difference! The outside had been restored, all the windows intact, the spray paint gone and the glory of its historical significance was shining through. It was the tallest hotel in the world when built in 1924. Currently its 67 condominiums have all been sold for $350,000 to 1.5 million. The largest residence is the 3 floor, nearly 4000 square foot penthouse. Owners have access to the hotel amenities including a bellman, valet, the food services, pool & fitness centers. The first four floors of the hotel are meeting rooms and restaurants such as the one Michael Symon of Iron Chef fame will be opening.
After our tour of the ballrooms, meeting rooms and lobby, we left The Westin Book Cadillac and headed to Campus Martius where I discovered the Point of Origin for Detroit city streets. It was interesting to learn that all the “mile” streets, 6 mile, 8 mile, 12 mile, were named as such because they were located that distance from the Point of Origin. We pondered the Campus Martius fountain, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument and I was impressed by the overwhelming number of folding chairs and tables for Detroiters to take a comfortable lunch in such a pretty setting.
We then continued our trek to Jefferson & Woodward where we gazed upon the Spirit of Detroit, who has undergone a makeover and is ready for his 50th birthday celebration later this month. We crossed the street and viewed many more pieces of art, including a giant fist, a Memorial to Joe Louis, the Passo di Danzo (Dance Step) and Transcending, the giant silver arch also known as the Labor Legacy Landmark.
We hopped on the People Mover and went back to the DAC for drinks, gourmet h’ordeurves and an interesting & informative presentation by Marilyn Wheaton the Director of the Marshall Fredericks Sculpture Museum< on the campus of Saginaw Valley State University. Marshall Fredericks was a prolific sculptor, creating many pieces including several we viewed on our tour. His most famous local piece is the Spirit of Detroit. I plan to attend all future walking tours, but the best part of the evening was realizing that I was excited to see this new side of Detroit, and proud to be a part of its future.
Flickr: Detroit Walking Tour Images