The Old & The New

History doesn’t have to repeat itself. For the past few years, my work in restaurant and hostel management has been about thinking on my feet and making quick decisions. Putting out brush fires. Solving issues as best I could in thirty seconds flat. Hoping for the best and letting history decide. Loud, fast-paced, seat of your pants-type stuff.  Being here, now, working with these people on the El Moore Lodge is changing me, necessarily; I’m adopting a longer view and thank goodness.

My name is Michel Soucisse and three weeks ago, I joined the Green Garage community to work on the Urban Lodge component of this ambitious project — the El Moore. What is an Urban Lodge? Well, I can begin by telling you what it is not. Unlike many hotels or hostels you may have had the chance to stay in, the Lodge will not stand alone. It will be embedded within a pre-existing resident community that will call the El Moore home year-round. While the long-term residents of the building will occupy the second, third and fourth floors of this beautiful, sustainably renovated 19th century apartment building, the Lodge will take up most of the garden level, first, and fifth floor. We will be offering a nice spectrum of places to stay in — everything from shared rooms at the garden level for those travelling with a budget in mind, to rooftop cabins complete with private bathrooms each with their own patios offering spectacular views of Midtown, Downtown and beyond.

The rustic textured walls of the rooftop cabins were created by carefully deconstructing the original El Moore walls and re-purposing the 1898 wooden lathe beneath.
One of our rooftop cabins. (Each has its own balcony!)

The Lodge will be an integral component of a community that will be made up of the El Moore residents, the block, the neighborhood, and beyond. It is a massive undertaking and I could see it easily being an overwhelming mess. There is complex work in every direction and on every level. But it isn’t a mess. It isn’t stress. It isn’t chaos. It is comfortable and measured and new. It is for me unexplored territory. It is granular. It is time and space. Time to think about every contingency, time to source all the right materials, to make all the proper connections, to be thoughtful, to discuss, to dream, to build something. History doesn’t have to repeat itself.

El Moore Facade

Day by day, moment by moment, the El Moore is becoming reality. It was once a fashionable address for the well-to-do in the late “Gay Nineties” of  Detroit’s Piety Hill. Fifty years later it was an overcrowded tenement, bursting at the seams in the Cass Corridor. Another fifty years on, the El Moore stood abandoned in a newly minted Midtown. Why not build lavish, market rate condominiums? They say the community can support it now, so why bother creating an Urban Lodge? Why cabins? Wouldn’t that beautiful roof have made a great spot for the building’s new residents? An exclusive, beautiful place for the mobile, educated professionals who (perhaps if the El Moore is their primary residence) spend time in and enjoy the panoramic views high above the neighborhood? Because history doesn’t have to repeat itself.

Now, a thoughtful and determined community of people are coming together and making plans and spreadsheets and drawing diagrams together, and I am one of them. We’re saving things and building things and most of all thinking about the future. Trying to make sure that the best decisions are being made at the El Moore & at the Lodge. Laying a foundation for the future.

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Artisans at The Smithshop realizing a meticulous restoration of the El Moore’s original balcony rails.

When the El Moore Lodge opens its doors in the summer of 2015,  it will join a long and storied history of hotels grand and small in Detroit. Much like The Hotel Pontchatrain or The Wayne, the Tuller or the Statler of centuries past, The El Moore will welcome guests coming to Detroit for business, for pleasure, for adventure. It will create access for those curious about what’s new and what’s happening in our great city. But unlike its predecessors, it will be embedded — immersed. It will have profound roots. It will not be exclusive to a certain population.  It will not be hinged to the waxing and waning of an industry. It will not be a monoculture. It will not be an island. It will be bucking a very old trend. It will be a testament to not conforming to prescription by being aware of a grander scheme, a bigger picture, a deeper connection to a more complex organism, because history doesn’t have to repeat itself.