Motown-inspired Hotel Opens in Downtown Detroit

Following a two-year, $10 million update, a 241-room boutique hotel in downtown Detroit with design elements inspired by 1960s Motown and soul music is now open.
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Indigo Hotel interior
Indigo Hotel in downtown Detroit features 1960s Motown-inspired designs. // Photo courtesy of Kraemer Design Group

Following a two-year, $10 million update, a 241-room boutique hotel in downtown Detroit with design elements inspired by 1960s Motown and soul music is now open.

Hotel Indigo is located at 1020 Washington Blvd. (southeast corner of Washington and Michigan Avenue). The updated design also pays homage to the original mid-century modern design of the building when it was first opened as a Howard Johnson Motor Lodge in 1966.

The new hotel, located across Michigan Avenue from the Westin Book Cadillac Detroit, includes a restaurant, The Trolley Room, which will open at a later date, and 1,700 square feet of meeting space. Hotel Indigo is managed by Ray Balkey and the Pyramid Hotel Group in Boston.

Design aspects include rosewood-inspired wood finishes, brass accents, bright fabrics, and minimalistic furniture. Kraemer Design Group in Detroit served as the architect and interior designer.

“Each building in Detroit tells a story, and telling the Hotel Indigo story here in our hometown allowed us to bring the city’s history to life in a new way,” says Bob Kraemer, principal and co-founder of Kraemer Design Group. “Detroit’s musical history spans generations and reaches people around the world, and we envisioned a design that would welcome world travelers back to the place where it all began, with fixtures and features that would make them feel truly immersed in Detroit sound, but in a visual way.”

The guestroom headboards, wall sconces, and area rugs are inspired by sound waves, equalizer forms, and musical instruments. The hallways include abstracted graphics from recording studio sound baffles.

Behind the front desk, a lit wall panel with lines corresponding to major streets in Detroit maps out the majority of music venues that were open with the building was first constructed. The first and second floor elevator lobby ceilings have a light installation that uses part of the music score from “Respect” by Aretha Franklin.

“Collaborating with local artists in the renovation was very important to the ownership and design team on the project,” says Jennifer Dwyer, director of design at Kraemer. The hotel commissioned permanent local art pieces in the main lobby and restaurant and collaborated with a local gallery. “Sydney G. James created an energetic Motown inspired painting for the lobby, and Chad Davis created an abstract mixed material collage/assemblage for the restaurant.”

In response to COVID-19, the hotel has implemented the IHG Way of Clean protocol, including deep cleaning with hospital-grade disinfectants. Enhanced procedures include face covering requirements, installations and means to reduce contact throughout the hotel, measures for social distancing in public spaces, and other policies based on guidance from the city and state.

“Reimagining this space to become a Hotel Indigo is more aligned with the visitors to Detroit today – savvy business travelers, curious adventurers, and people inspired by new experiences – and together with our team of associates, we are pleased and excited to serve these guests and the Detroit community,” Balkey says. “Travel looks different than it has in the past, but our entire team has embraced new protocols and implemented cleaning and distancing standards to welcome guests to our updated property with care, comfort, and hospitality befitting of the Detroit community.”

Hotel Indigo was previously a Holiday Inn Express and Suites and was acquired in 2018 by Glenmont Capital Management. The renovations and rebranding of the property were completed through a phased approach that enabled the hotel to remain open as work was completed. More information on the hotel is available here.

Pyramid Hotel Group is based in Boston and manages a portfolio of more than 90 hotels and resorts across the U.S., Caribbean, and western Europe.

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