McIntosh Poris Associates Transforms Historic Fire House Into Award-Winning Hotel

Detroit Foundation Hotel Lauded as Best Upscale Hotel for Excellence in Hospitality Design


McIntosh Poris Associates’ design for the award-winning, $28-million Detroit Foundation Hotel embraces a “Detroit State of Mind” to welcome both visitors and locals with an authentic sense of place. Left Photo: Joe Vaughn. Center and Right Photos: Michelle & Chris Gerard. Click here for high-resolution images.

DETROIT: McIntosh Poris Associates’ design for the Detroit Foundation Hotel in Detroit, MI, has been honored as Best Hotel in the Upscale category at the 37th Annual Gold Key Awards for Excellence in Hospitality Design.  The firm repurposed the former Detroit Fire Department Headquarters and the adjacent Pontchartrain Wine Cellars, both historically registered buildings, into a 100-key hotel, accommodating retail, conference spaces, fitness center, podcast studio, roof-top banquet space, and ground-level restaurant/bar/lounge, aptly named The Apparatus Room.  The $28-million project embraces a “Detroit State of Mind” to welcome both visitors and locals with an authentic sense of place.

The Gold Key Awards program is the industry’s oldest and most prestigious distinction honoring outstanding hospitality design.  The awards recognize best-in-class design in every sector of the hospitality industry by visionary firms who create the most innovative projects.

The Detroit Foundation Hotel embraces Detroit’s past while celebrating its promising future.  To maintain the character of both buildings, McIntosh Poris Associates repaired and restored the existing façades.  The firehouse’s decorative terra cotta panels sporting firehouse themes, such as busts of firefighters, gryphons at a fire hydrant, and winged serpent-tailed figures flanking a shield proclaiming “DFD,” were restored, replaced, cleaned, and maintained.  The original fire-engine red doors have been restored and reused to maintain its identity.

Upon entering the five-story Neoclassical building through a massive arched, terra cotta-faced portal, guests are transported into a voluminous, story-and-a half space that once housed the fire engines.  Existing glazed bricks celebrate the building’s history, while the new finishes, decorative lighting, and interior architecture add modernity.  The Apparatus Room, situated in the former fire engine hall, along with a historic private dining room, use the building’s origins to the fullest.  The restaurant features an open display kitchen, chef’s table mezzanine, and locally made custom fixtures and artwork.

Due to the five-foot floor height difference between the two historic buildings, the architects planned a variation of spaces throughout the hotel with 55 room types and spatial surprises.  Historically relevant materials have been reused from the former Fire Department Headquarters, as well as from Detroit, to pay homage to the past within a contemporary design context.  The architects worked with Architectural Salvage Warehouse Detroit to inventory, reclaim, and repurpose interior wood floors, trim, and millwork from the building and salvaged materials from other buildings throughout the city.

McIntosh Poris Associates’ adaptive re-use practice has been sought out for restoration, design, and enhancement of restaurants, commercial office spaces, retail stores, and cultural treasures.  The Detroit Foundation Hotel is the firm’s second adaptive reuse of a historic fire house.  It previously transformed the 1938 Fenton Fire Hall in Fenton, MI, into a favorite local eatery.

In addition to the firm leading the architecture and adaptive reuse for the Detroit Foundation Hotel, other project team members included Aparium Hotel Group (owner); Simeone Deary Design Group (interior design, positioning/graphics, and branding); Sachse Construction (general contractor); MA Engineering (MEP engineer); Structural Design, Inc. (structural engineer); Giffels Webster (civil and traffic engineer); Illuminart (lighting design); Soundscape (acoustical design); Kraemer Design Group (historic preservation consultant); Next Step Design (food service consultant); and Sorbis (low voltage design).

McIntosh Poris Associates is a full-service architecture, interiors, and urban design firm.  Founded in 1994 by Michael Poris, AIA, and the late Douglas McIntosh, the firm transforms buildings, communities, and urban centers with architecture created through dialogue.  Since 1994, McIntosh Poris Associates has won more than 100 awards for single- and multi-family residential, mixed-use, commercial, hospitality, institutional, and arts projects throughout Michigan, New York, and Ontario for private, public, and non-profit clients.