New owners Emre and Lynn Uralli have put “millions” into renovating the historic four-story, 125-year-old building in downtown Detroit and hired Thomas Trainor, previously with the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, as the new GM. After January 12th’s grand opening the club will keep its main dining room and meeting rooms open to the public. “We’re going to be diverse enough to appeal to the millennials,” Trainor said. “It’s not going to be as traditional [a] club environment as you would think.”
Closed for four years, The Detroit Club is about to re-open its historic downtown clubhouse in Michigan’s largest city, following extensive renovations and a membership reboot, the Detroit Free Press reported.
New owners Emre and Lynn Uralli have put millions of dollars into updating the four-story, 1892 Detroit Club building, refurnishing its venerable dining and reception rooms and adding new lounge areas and amenities, including a spa and whirlpool floor and 10 overnight guest suites, the Free Press reported.
The Detroit Club was started by local businessmen in 1882 in a rented location, the Free Press reported. The club moved to its Romanesque Revival-style building in 1892, and the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.
The Detroit Club’s few remaining members stopped meeting shortly after the Urallis bought the clubhouse in December 2013. Two years earlier, the club had been sold for $280,000 to two club members, who then flipped it to the Urallis for $1 million.
Less than a year after buying The Detroit Club building, Emre Uralli offered up the property in a July 2014 online auction. Bidding reached $2.9 million, but fell short of the auction’s secret minimum threshold for a sale, the Free Press reported.
The Urallis also own the surface parking lot next to the club, as well as the underground parking lot below it. Both lots could be used for the club’s valet parking, the Free Press noted.
As part of its reopening, the club has begun accepting new membership applications, essentially restarting from scratch, and plans to have a grand opening on January 12th, in time to host meetings and events during the 2018 North American International Auto Show, one of Detroit’s biggest annual events, the Free Press reported.
In an attempt to differentiate its offer from the Detroit Athletic Club (DAC), its still-thriving and better-known neighbor, The Detroit Club’s main dining room will be open to the public year-round for lunch, dinner and cocktails starting January 15th, the Free Press reported, and the club will also allow its meeting rooms to be rented by nonmembers for weddings, receptions or other events.
“We want Detroiters to come in and experience this club, and see it for what it is,” said General Manager Thomas Trainor, who previously managed the Grosse Pointe (Mich.) Yacht Club.
But even with the city’s recent downtown resurgence, whether Detroit can support a new private social club, after so many of them have closed amid dwindling finances and members, is an open question, the Free Press noted. The list of former private clubs in the city includes the University Club, the Recess Club and the Renaissance Club.
“The reason some of these city clubs aren’t as successful as they used to be is because they didn’t evolve with the times,” Trainor told the Free Press. “They had the same model—’this is how we’re going to operate, here is what we’re going to offer’—and as younger people started to come into the workforce, that’s not what they wanted.
“So we’re going to be a private club, yet we’re going to be diverse enough so that it’s going to appeal to the millennials, to the downtown business community,” Trainor added. “It’s not going to be as traditional in the club environment as you would think.”
Every room on every floor inside the reborn Detroit Club has undergone renovation, the Free Press reported. An extensive slideshow of the work can be viewed at https://www.freep.com/story/money/business/michigan/2017/12/18/detroit-club-renovations-membership/949857001/
A particularly dramatic transformation occurred in the basement of the building, which had been mostly storage and a disused bowling alley, the Free Press reported. The bottom level now features a large whirlpool, a small gym, men’s and women’s saunas, a massage room and locker rooms.
The redone dining room and members-only library is on the ground floor, the Free Press reported, and the second floor features the 120-seat Grand Ballroom and several small private dining rooms. The soaring and ornate Presidential Ballroom is still found on the third floor, although the old paisley carpeting is now a hardwood floor.
A new cigar bar is also on the third floor, tucked within the walkway that connects the club to the 1925 Detroit Free Press building. There is still a doorway between the buildings, although for now it is covered.
The long-vacant Free Press building is being redeveloped by a local real estate firm; the newspaper relocated to different office space in 1998.
“If we want to partner in some way based on how that building [is repurposed], it can be done,” Trainor told the Free Press.
The building’s fourth floor features 10 newly designed bedroom suites that will be available to club members or members’ guests. Prior to the renovations, the clubhouse only had a few spartan bedrooms, the Free Press reported.
A standard membership to the new Detroit Club will cost $250 per month, plus a $3,500 entrance fee, the Free Press reported. The initiation and per-month rates are lower for members who are younger than 36, and lower still for those in their 20s.
The club is also offering discounted “legacy” memberships to former Detroit Club members and their children, if they care to join.
There was a legal feud several years ago between some former members and the building’s new owners concerning which Detroit Club antiques would stay inside the clubhouse, the Free Press reported. Several old members have continued to meet on occasion, but on the other side of downtown in the Detroit Athletic Club.
“I’d be very surprised if any of the old members became members of the new club,” John Booth II, a past club President, told the Free Press this fall. “But it’s a new club, a new era, and I wish them well.”
The Detroit Club’s memberships will be somewhat less expensive than the Detroit Athletic Club’s, the Free Press reported. In 2015, the DAC charged a $3,500 entrance fee and $337 monthly dues for a full membership, the Free Press reported, citing a Crain’s Detroit story.
The DAC staff did not respond to requests for information on current rates, the Free Press reported.
The Detroit Club hasn’t set any cap on the maximum number of members, the Free Press reported, although the club likely won’t go above 500 members in its first year, Trainor indicated, in order to see how the redone clubhouse is functioning. Membership peaked at about 1,000 in the 1950s.
“We want it to be small, intimate, personalized service,” Trainor said.
Regina Peter, the club’s Director of Sales and Marketing, said membership applicants will undergo a review, although the criteria is very open, the Free Press reported.
“If he or she can enhance the experience of our other members, whether it’s through networking, business or philanthropy, that’s the ideal candidate for us,” Peter said.