Inn on Ferry Street
Michigan| Posted: 09/27/2002
The Ferry Street Historic District is one of Detroit`s most significant collections of houses from the late 19th century and early 20th century. The Inn on Ferry Street project encompasses four houses and two carriage barns in the first block east of Woodward Avenue. They were built from 1886 through 1892 by leading businessmen in styles ranging from picturesque Queen Anne to stately Romanesque.
In the mid-1980s the Founders Society purchased these houses to protect the northern flanks of the Detroit Institute of Arts from rapidly encroaching urban decay. Some Founders Society Board members considered demolishing the houses to provide land for much needed parking. Fortunately, the Board was willing to listen to local preservationist who lobbied intensely for saving the houses. In 1990 the Board requested the University Cultural Center Association (UCCA) - a community development organization representing Detroit`s Cultural Center institutions - to study alternatives for redeveloping the houses.
With financial support from the Hudson Weber Foundation, UCCA began work on the project with the assistance of Zachary and Associates, a firm specializing in urban redevelopment with specific experience in historic preservation. Together they determined the houses presented an interesting opportunity to create a bed and breakfast style inn to serve visitors to the Cultural Center, Wayne State University, and the nearby Detroit Medical Center. Supported by a market study confirming that potential, they hired Elisabeth Knibbe Architects (EKA), a firm that specializes in the adaptive use of historic buildings, to determine if the houses could be converted for use as an inn.
EKA developed a design that restores the historic character of the houses while meeting the requirements of a modern hotel. The exteriors of the houses are restored -and painted in period colors. In each house the main parlors and grand stairwells are retained for use by Inn guests and for special receptions. Other rooms are modified to provide 42 guestrooms that have the character of historic bedrooms, but each with its own private bathroom. The design also accommodates new fire egress stairs, new hvac systems, and other life safety systems. By respecting the historic character of each house, EKA was able to create an environment where history is seamlessly blended with modern amenities.
With a development strategy and adaptive use design in place, the challenging task of funding the project remained. Standard mortgage financing was not an option - no bank considered the project viable. Undeterred with dogged determination and creativity, UCCA and Zachary Associates assembled a financing package consisting of foundation grants, loans and grants from the City of Detroit, and historic preservation tax credits. By the time the financing was complete, eight years had passed and twenty-three sources committed. The development was structured as a for-profit subsidiary of the Detroit Institute of the Arts and the University Cultural Center Association (The Ferry Street Development Company, L.L.C.), so that profits will eventually flow to these institutions.
As construction was underway, Masco Corporation, the maker of Delta Faucets and numerous other home products, followed its substantial grant to the project with an offer to provide interior furnishings at whole sale cost. This generous offer permitted the project team to finish the houses with furnishings worthy of the quality of the original architecture. Each parlor and each guestroom is uniquely furnished, giving the houses of the Inn the character of fine homes - just as they had originally.
The Inn on Ferry Street is the result of an team extraordinary effort. UCCA and Zachary & Associates persisted when most would have quit in frustration. Hudson Weber Foundation provided funding at several critical junctures permitting the project to continue. EKA retained the historic character of the houses while meeting the challenges inherent in adapting single family houses to meet the needs of a modern hotel. Masco Corporation provided both seed money and finishing touches.
The Inn on Ferry Street is a text book example of adaptive use of historic houses. The Inn has contributed both to the revitalization of the Ferry Street Historic District and to the enrichment of Detroit`s Cultural Center. In a city were preservation is often considered an impediment to economic development, the Inn on Ferry Street is an excellent example of how preservation can facilitate economic development by creating an amenity that could simply never exist without the use of historic buildings.
2001 Tri-Umph Award from the City of Detroit Historic Designation Review Board on behalf of the Detroit City Council
2002 Annual Award for Historic Restoration from Preservation Wayne
For more information contact:
Terry Street Development Co, LLC
4735 Cass Avenue
Detroit, MI 48202