The Book Cadillac Hotel, named after a French fur trader, is located at the corner of State Street and Washington Boulevard in downtown Detroit, Michigan. Completed in December 1924, the hotel declined in the 1960’s after violent race riots swept the city and abandoned in 1984. It was restored in 2007-08 into the Westin Book-Cadillac Detroit.


History

The Book Cadillac Hotel was completed in December 1924 1 4 after 17 months of construction at the cost of $14 million. 2 The hotel was named for Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, a French fur trader who founded Detroit in 1701.4

The building was designed in the Italian Renaissance architectural style by architect Louis Kamper, using New York City’s Statler Hotel for influence. 3 It was constructed by the city’s famed Book brothers, J.B. Jr., Herbert and Frank. Upon completion, the Book-Cadillac was the tallest hotel in the world with 33 floors and the tallest building in the city. Inside were 1,136 rooms, the Italian Garden Room with a two-story glass ceiling and electronic lighting controls that modified the ceiling to resemble a sunny day, a star-lit evening, or a thunderstorm. 2 A large refrigeration plant provided fresh air for all of the public rooms.

The building was the premier hotel in Detroit for many years, hosting numerous social events and conventions, and rooming presidents, dignitaries and entertainers. The hotel played a role in the 1948 film State of the Union, where Presidential hopeful Grant Matthews readied his speech to Detroit’s business leaders from room 2419. 1

Decline

The hotel declined during the Great Depression of the 1920’s and 1930’s, but new ownership helped restore the vitality of the hotel post-World War II. In 1951, the hotel was sold to the Sheraton Hotel Corporation, who renamed it the Sheraton-Cadillac. 4 The hotel was financially stable until the 1960’s, when much of the city’s middle- and upper-class began leaving Detroit after the violent race riots that affected much of the city. 4 Detroit attempted to revitalize downtown in the 1970’s with the construction of the Renaissance Center, although that had the unintended effect of drawing businesses away from the west end of downtown where the Sheraton-Cadillac was located at.

Sheraton sold the hotel to Radisson, although the company stopped accepting guests in 1984. The building was liquidated in 1986 and subsequently abandoned. 1

In 2001, the city regained control over the former hotel but determined that it was too expensive to renovate and listed the property for demolition. 4 When Kwame Kilpatrick became mayor in 2002, he reversed the demolition decision and ordered the city to find developers for as many abandoned buildings as possible.

Restoration

In 2003, Historic Hospitality, a subsidiary of the Kimberly-Clark Corporation, expressed interest in purchasing the abandoned Book-Cadillac but was unable to arrange financing. 4 5 The Ferchill Group of Cleveland, Ohio stepped up, offering $4 million in equity for the development, plus $8 million for start-up costs. Approximately $24 million came from two of Detroit’s pension boards.

One of the more prominent financiers was Meijer who threatened its $7.4 million in financial support for the project after state politicians eliminated a critical tax credit the company had expected to use. Days before the lawmakers’ summer recess, Ferchill successfully lobbied legislators, and then the governor’s office, for special concessions. As a result, Meijer and other corporations were able to keep their tax credit. 4

A conservation easement was placed upon the Book-Cadillac, which prevented the company from building more condominiums on top of the hotel’s existing structure. This allowed Ferchill to write off the estimated foregone profits as a charitable gift and pass the tax benefit to other partners. As a result, National City Bank agreed to invest more than $28 million into the property. 4

In 2006, following more than two years of planning, Ferchill devised a financial package to redevelop the Book-Cadillac into a hotel and condominium development. 1 The company assembled $180 million in financing through 22 sources. 3 Construction began in 2007 after a management contract was signed with Starwood Hotels & Resorts to operate a four-star hotel within the Book-Cadillac, to be referred to as the Westin Book-Cadillac Detroit.

Renovations were finished in the fall of 2008 at the cost of $200 million. 1 3 4 The Westin Book-Cadillac Detroit included 455 guest rooms with amenities such as a fitness center, indoor swimming pool and whirlpool, three ballrooms, a four-star restaurant, first-floor retail, and a $20 million, 500-space parking structure. 3 5 Two of the halls, the Grand Ballroom and the Italian Garden, were restored to their original specifications. A third 11,000 square feet ballroom, with seating capacity for 1,000, was constructed on the north side of the hotel. Overall, 39,000 square feet of event and conference space was built. Also outfitted were 67 upscale condominium units on the top eight floors. 5

Sources