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DETROIT-A $50-million project to renovate an existing popular hotel into two hotels and residential condominiums has been approved by the Detroit planning commission. Star Hospitality Group of Chicago has received zoning approval for plans to renovate the Pick-Fort Shelby Hotel in Downtown Detroit at First Street and Lafayette Boulevard.

The hotels would be a 140-room Holiday Inn Express and a 110-room Staybridge Inn suites hotel. The high-rise condominium building would range from 34 to 78 units, depending on how much square feet purchasers wish to live in, says Eugene M. Curtis, the consultant for Star Hospitality. Curtis runs a self-named income property brokerage firm in Birmingham.

“It’s been more than a year that we’ve worked to put this deal together,” Curtis says. “The building has been vacant for 27 years. It’s a wonderful hotel. However, I know one year they hosted a party for the Democratic Party for the presidential primary.”

The project, after it is renovated, will be about 329,000 sf, Curtis says.The project will take about two years to complete, he adds. The development company must retain the outside of the building to qualify for tax credits from the state.

The consultant says there will be much demand for this project once it’s completed.

“In two years, Downtown Detroit will look totally different than it doestoday,” Curtis says. “With the arrival of General Motors Corp. employees in the Renaissance Center and the automaker’s various suppliers, and Compuware in the Campus Martius project, we feel the market in the future is wonderful, especially for residential and hotels.”

The 22-story hotel, built in two phases between 1918 and 1927, has sat pretty much vacant since closing in 1973. It’s located within a short walk of the temporary quarters of the MGM Grand Detroit Casino.

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