Developer Aims to Build 36-Room Hotel in Detroit Using Shipping Containers – By Glenn Hasek

Shel Kimen, the founder of an organization called Collision Works, is making progress in her attempt to build a 36-room boutique-style hotel in the Eastern Market area of Detroit.

The hotel, which primarily would be constructed from shipping containers, would also include a 3,000-square-foot event space, co-working space – a mix of private and public space – and outdoor courtyard. At press time, Kimen was close to finalizing the purchase of the land from the City of Detroit.

Kimen hatched the idea for the hotel in mid-2011 and has been working on the project since. Once the land has been purchased, the actual financing of the hotel will begin. “It would be great to do ground breaking in the spring,” Kimen says. If that happens, the hotel could open as early as fall 2013.

Collision Works is working with George Cooper of the architectural firm KOOP architecture + media to design the hotel. The firm has experience designing structures that use shipping containers. The Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC) is also assisting with the design of the project. “DCDC is a design group set up 10 years ago to work primarily with nonprofits,” Kimen says. “They have since evolved into doing all kinds of things with the city.”

Kimen is currently negotiating with a builder for the containers. By using shipping containers, she says, one can accelerate the construction process.

Containers Quicken Construction Process

“Shipping containers are considerably more durable than standard construction, can cost less, and most importantly are about 30 percent faster to build,” Kimen says on her blog. “We’ll be using this project as an opportunity to teach local builders and designers about the process. So as we get to building in the spring, expect to hear about public workshops for people interested.”

Kimen’s goal is to acquire the containers locally. “Worst-case scenario, the containers would be sourced from Chicago,” she says. Kimen adds that the hotel may go beyond LEED in some aspects of its design.

Kimen, whose family is from Detroit, grew up in Chicago and recently spent 14 years living in New York City. “I was craving getting back to the middle of the country,” she says. She chose the Eastern Market area of Detroit for the hotel’s location because of its thriving “foodie” culture. The area attracts two million visitors a year to its farmers’ market and boutique food stores.

“There are a lot of creative class people who live in the area,” she says. “They need an interesting place for visitors to stay.”

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This article first appeared on the Green Lodging News website. To sign up to receive the weekly Green Lodging News newsletter, go to Glenn Hasek can be reached at