Shel Kimen loves a good story, and hers is a tale of a grassroots effort to support a creative community in their time of need. She dreamt up Detroit Collision Works, a multipurpose boutique hotel, co-working space and venue for all-around awesomeness, in Summer of 2011, and they're hoping to Kickstart a prototype of a converted shipping container in time for Flower Day in the country's longest running farmer's market—exactly one month out, on May 18. With just 36 hours to go to raise $11,000 for First Container, Kimen was kind enough to take the time to tell us why we should care.
Awesome needs a place to be.
As people are all too eager to tell you, Detroit has some problems, with the economy, crime, and fractured communities. So when I was thinking about a move to Detroit after 14 years in New York City, I knew that whatever I was going to do had to address some real needs. Coming from the design world, I know that making a good product means understanding, intimately, the people that are going to use it. So the first thing I started doing when I got to Detroit was talk to people. Lots of them.
It started with a hotel. Amazingly, there was not a modern, boutique hotel in all of Detroit! Yet creative people from all over the world visit to work on design an innovation projects—for the auto industry, for bio-tech, for the city (we are an urban planners dream thesis), and to perform at or attend one of our legendary music festivals that combined bring in half a million people annually. Those are creative travelers!
So, ok, we need a cool hotel.
But a cool hotel isn't enough. We need a place for coming together, with our immediate communities, as a city, and inclusive of the many people who visit us. We need a place to accelerate the growth of our communities.
Collision Works is a creative space needed by the people living in Detroit now and the people coming to visit us. It's an artful 36-room boutique hotel, co-working facility, and public event space that uses storytelling to connect and engage travelers and locals alike. Our whole lives are stories—truth and fiction, history and imagination. Stories connect us, help us learn, and catalyze personal and community growth.
We will be located in Eastern Market, one of Detroit's top neighborhoods for living, working and arts activities. It is also Detroit's epicenter for foodie culture, hosting some two million visitors a year to its all season farmers' market and boutique food stores. The facility will be artfully built from repurposed shipping containers with experts in green construction and container structures. This is a valuable opportunity to bring new methods and new jobs to local designers and builders.
We are driven by community values and sustainable profit and because of this are excited to transfer our current S Corp status to a B Corporation pending Michigan Legislation. Current corporate law makes it difficult for businesses to take employee, community and environmental interests into consideration when making decisions.
We also believe in the idea of iterative learning. And we're in the last few days of a Kickstarter campaign to create our two-container prototype. One will offer innovative, local retail and the other will be a "mini lobby" with couches, a communal table and free wi-fi. This First Container really is our first container, and after six months it will be moved to the site of the future hotel just three blocks away.
It's hugely important. Not only will it help market the hotel to investors and show people how cool shipping container architecture can be, it will give us a chance to learn some really valuable stuff about what gets people excited about stories and work on our events programming. What draws people out? What gets them talking and interacting? What do the artists like? What do the kids like?
The opportunity came up quickly—much too quickly for us to court the foundations and other investors in the city that would support this kind of innovative place-making goodness. So we jumped on kickstarter with a 17-day campaign. 17 Days! We've got two left and are hoping you can help us by becoming a backer. Some of the rewards even let you pre-book a room and all are designed to get a little piece of you, and what you value, into the space.
We are ready to rock. We are ready for awesome. And awesome needs a place to be.
But don't just take my word for it. As Greg Oates writes in 200Rooms:Can one person in America make a difference? The rise of Social Entrepreneurship is one of the most exciting and fastest growing developments in business today. The idea that a company can have a sustainable business model and make a positive impact on the community is highly attractive to the Millennial generation. By leveraging that interest, Collision Works is the hotel of the future where locals and guests can learn about social issues in both a fun and experiential manner.
In a tourism scenario, Detroit Collision Works... can promote "Creative Tourism," which is growing in popularity as an evolution of cultural tourism. The boom in cooking classes at hotels worldwide is one example of this. Santa Fe Creative Tourism is another.
Parallel to that trend, the UNESCO Creative Cities Network is defined as "a network of creative cities working together towards a common mission for cultural diversity and sustainable urban development... 'creative hubs' that promote socio-economic and cultural development [and] 'Socio-cultural clusters' connecting socio-culturally diverse communities to create a healthy urban environment." What makes those cities creative hubs and provides a platform for socio-cultural clusters are places like Collision Works and people like Shel Kimen.
Check out the First Container website for more information and show your support on Kickstarter.