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Arco Construction and Partner, Aparium Hotel Group, Plan to Convert Former
Detroit Fire Department Headquarters into 80-room Boutique Hotel

By John Gallagher, Detroit Free PressMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

March 05, 2013--Southfield developer Walter Cohen said Monday he hopes to open a boutique hotel in Detroit's former fire department headquarters near Cobo Center by the January 2015 auto show.

Cohen, of Arco Construction, and his partner, the Aparium Hotel Group in Chicago, have agreed to buy the former firehouse headquarters from the city for $1.25 million. Detroit's City Council is expected to take up the proposed sale as early as today.

Cohen said the plan is to convert the historic firehouse to about 80 upscale rooms and a Cajun-themed restaurant on the first floor. He said the plan is to highlight the historic architecture of the 1929 structure, designed by architect Hans Gehrke.

"We're saving everything on the outside and as much as we can on the inside," Cohen said.

Cohen's other projects in the city have involved the renovation of the Park Shelton residential building just north of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

If the City Council approves a sale, the buyers still need to have a contract approved by the city's law department. Then the buyers need to do all the engineering and design work, although Cohen said he hoped construction could begin by this fall.

The Aparium Hotel Group has been involved in similar projects, including the Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee and the Hotel Covington near Cincinnati, both designed for business travelers and upscale leisure travelers.

Cohen said the firehouse hotel would be managed independently rather than under the flag of a major operator. A name has yet to be chosen.

Contact John Gallagher: 313-222-5173 or


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