On March 15th at University of Detroit Mercy in partnership with the Detroit Collaborative Design Center, we invited students, local entrepreneurs, developers, architects, activists, and artists to hear about our ideas and contribute their thoughts, experience and hopes for this project. We are so grateful for all who shared their valuable time with us. We’ve put together a quick summary of what we talked about and what we learned. If you have more questions about the process please don’t hesitate to ask.
- Socialize the idea and generate enthusiasm
- Receive feedback on critical development areas (Story, Mentoring, Location, Partnerships)
25 students, local entrepreneurs, developers, architects, activists, and artists attended. We had men and women, teens to 60-somethings, of many different backgrounds. Diversity is important. Breadth of opinion and perspective reinforces the integrity of this project.
We broke the meeting into parts of presentation flanked with individual time to reflect on content and some group exercises.
From our conversations five strategic thoughts and questions emerged:
- Location can be polarizing
- We need clarity on target audience
- What stories are we telling?
- How is ‘Detroit’ a part of this?
- The importance of Consistency
It was clear pretty quickly that people have strong opinions about where something like the Detroit Hotel Project should live. We got pros and cons for all three of our location choices: Southwest, Eastern Market area, or downtown/lower midtown. We also discussed how the business model would adjust to the location. For example if it were in Southwest it would probably have more family programming. If it were downtown it might focus more on lodging and public events. Right now our current thinking prefers downtown and its proximity to public transportation and other established music and performance venues. Being downtown also neutralizes the eastside/westside emotional debates and makes it easy for residents as well as tourists to use the facility.
We can’t be all things to all people and so who should we pick? There were calls for family-friendly and others wanted the space to accommodate students and young travelers. There are many ways to slice demographics and ours will not fall along traditional lines of people of a certain age, income level, and family status. Instead we are looking to target psychographics – people who are open minded, like to learn, and value creativity. These people could be young or old, wealthy or on a tight budget, and alone or with their families. In all honesty, we think we will get some of everyone. But the design will focus on the curious and will be flexible enough through custom room design and changeable spaces to accommodate a great variety of people. This hotel is not for people who are easily classifiable. ‘Eclectic experience seekers’ is an actual large and real market segment with sufficient disposable income. We also need to keep in mind that this is also for Detroiters. The facility will be plentiful with places to meet, gather, and work.
What stories are we telling?
Detroit has seen hard times. People here have gone through all kinds of things most other Americans could never imagine. We heard and agree that it is important not to ignore the hard stuff on our road to create new good stuff. We talked about ways to encourage greater participation, to figure out how to collect and reflect back a great breadth of the stories that people want to share. We talked about the importance of authenticity, which we believe is a critical component to any success.
How is ‘Detroit’ a part of this?
Detroiters are proud. We like to show the world that pride. And it goes deeper than a Gothic D and Coney’s and The Temptations (though we love all those things!). We don’t want to sell well-trodden images and ideas of Detroit. We want to show the world a rich and deep Detroit, who we really are, our essence. The stories we collect are not necessarily about Detroit, but the Detroiters to whom they are important. So sure, we want to remember our first Tigers game, but lots of the stories will also be about things outside Detroit. The most important part of any story is who tells it, and that’s what we’re after.
The importance of Commitment & Follow-through
Commitment came up in a few different times and it usually related to people getting attached to something and then having it go away. We’ve all seen countless cool ideas appear and then disappear in Detroit – community programs, hang-out spots, and things much more personal like churches, schools, and neighborhoods. It’s hard to get attached to a program or place only to see it go away. We can take three valuable lessons from this:
- Be really clear and honest about what we can accomplish
- Do what we say we are going to do, follow through
- Plan for the long-term; do whatever we can to ensure what we are building is made to last
We are targeting the summer to begin holding additional workshops. If you have interest in attending one please sign up to our newsletter list below. We will post there when and where we will be meeting next.