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Gold Award: Westin Book Cadillac Hotel & Condominiums Detroit, Mich.

September 01, 2009 |
Before and after images of the grand ballroom show the extent of the

damage and the craftmanship that went into re-creating the hotel.

“From eyesore to icon.”

That's how Reconstruction Awards judge K. Nam Shiu so concisely described the restoration effort that turned the decimated Book Cadillac Hotel into a modern hotel and condo development.

The tallest hotel in the world when it opened in 1924, the 32-story Renaissance Revival structure was revered as a jewel in the then-bustling Motor City. In its heyday, the Book Cadillac hosted five different presidents, show-business celebrities, and sports legends like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

But just 60 years after its grand opening, owners of the hotel were forced to close its doors as Detroit's once-booming economy sank into deep decline. The structure would sit vacant for another 22 years, exposed to the harsh weather, vandals, and fires. In some areas the decay even reached the building's skeletal structure. Interior finishes were completely lost, lying in heaps on the floors.

After several failed attempts by private developers to revive the building, The Ferchill Group, a Cleveland-based developer, finally came up with a winning formula: a partnership with Starwood Hotels & Resorts involving 22 public and private revenue sources.

The 27-month effort restored the building into the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel & Condominiums—455 hotel rooms and 67 condo units. The $176 million project included complete demolition and reconstruction of the top four floors; installation of more than 2,000 replicated windows; rebuilding two elaborate ballrooms on the fourth floor; repair of the terra cotta façade; and construction of a three-story addition housing a pool/spa, fitness center, and restaurant. It was essentially a 771,800-sf gut job.

Given the sheer scale of the project and the enormity of the damage, it took the Building Team more than a year just to assess the existing structure and develop schemes for demolition and rebuilding. An unmanned robot was used to safely perform the dangerous demolition tasks, and Bobcats and skid steers were hoisted to upper floors for selective interior demolition.

“The team faced a huge challenge on this project because the building was in such poor shape,” said Reconstruction Awards judge Martha Bell, AIA, LEED AP, principal with Tilton, Kelly+Bell, Chicago. “The project was nicely done.” —Dave Barista, Managing Editor

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