One of the coolest spots to hold a seminar in Detroit may be the Fort Shelby Hotel’s 21,000 sq. ft. conference center, which has plenty of new bells and whistles after the hotel underwent a $90 million renovation and joined Doubletree Guest Suites.

The spacious meeting center has earned approval from the International Association of Conference Centers (IACC) and operates under strict guidelines.

Meeting rooms are specially engineered with features such as ergonomic chairs, tables with non-glare surfaces, and appropriate lighting and acoustics.

A full inventory of audio-visual equipment is available, and technicians are on-site. IACC-approved conference centers are ideal for groups of 25 to 75 people.

“You could have a training meeting here for three or four days, be in a very high-tech educational room, and stay in a two-room suite. It’s unlike anything else you’re going to see in the city,” says Shannon Dunavent, the hotel’s general manager.
Since its opening Dec. 15, the hotel has hosted conferences for the automotive and pharmaceutical industries.

The hotel’s careful renovation and charm are part of the attraction. The grand staircase and the Crystal Ballroom have been restored, and the terrazzo flooring remains intact. “The developers really put a lot of passion into making this building spectacular, and by doing that it’s created a very classic, historic feel,” says Dunavent.

Guest suites at the hotel range from 650 to 1,200 sq. ft., and the average room rate is about $189. By contrast, the average size of a U.S. hotel room is approximately 325 sq. ft. The high-quality educational facilities have been a big selling point with meeting planners.

Transformation of the Fort Shelby into 203 spacious guest suites was a Herculean effort. The project took six years to complete from conception to inception, but it was worth the effort, says Richard Curto, a principal with MCP Development LLC, owner and developer of the new Doubletree Guest Suites Fort Shelby.

The hotel on Lafayette Boulevard was originally built in 1917 as a 10-story building; a major addition came in 1927.

“The biggest satisfaction by far for our ownership group was to convert a closed-down, dilapidated structure into a beautifully renovated and modern mixed-use development that helped re-energize an area of downtown Detroit and add significant local employment,” says Curto.