Building a Place for Storytelling in Detroit

May 20th, 2013 in Inspiration

The Detroit story is told often as a story of post-industrialism. A city that’s lost a large amount of its population, Detroit suffers from urban blight, ruin porn, and abandonment. Detroit Stories

The story of Detroit is a story of reinvention too, with a booming Midtown and Downtown. It’s a story of reimagining land and space into urban farms, community spaces, and reusing the large and empty architecture found, well, just about everywhere.

The story is told in terms of how people can inhabit such large and interesting spaces, how they must deal with the social, economic, and political disparities that come along with the terrain. It is a story so inherently tied to physical place.

One person, Shel Kimen, has reimagined a space in a way that connects and opens up these two narratives and the community at large. Shel is creating a hotel and community space in what she calls a central location between the city and the neighborhoods. Its soon to be home in Eastern Market is located near Downtown/Midtown. The marketplace is a large destination that feeds and draws people near and far to the city.

The hotel will be a place for all Detroiters, rich, poor, young and old to gather, and for visitors to stay and engage with the community. Locals can arrive to share the stories of their communities. Visitors can learn and listen.

It's a place built for telling stories.

Collision Works Hotel in Detroit

When you have a city so scattered physically, it is easy to become disconnected spiritually. Can a physical place built for the community help connect the local people?

When you travel to another city, how do you truly engage with the community? What if there was a more accessible way to stay, learn, and hear the people of the city?

Collision Works is both unique in that it will be made from repurposed shipping containers and that it is creating a space more open and inclusive to the community. The hotel will be designed to create an “experience-rich” form of “Creative Tourism.”

We believe hotels could serve as a nexus for mutually beneficial creative co-creation between visitors and locals."

"We will offer inetactive, educational, and entertaining story-telling experiences for all levels of engagement. Some visitors may want to quietly enjoy a story painted on the wall in their room. Others might attend a live event in our public courtyard or play with or contribute to the interactive story-wall in our lobby. Still others will attend an onsite workshop with a local university or arts organization, learning and creating side by side with locals."

"All will be better off having had the experience. And all will feel a greater connection to Detroit and the people that call Detroit home." (See: Collission Works).

The pot-holed geography, the stunning architecture, and the beautiful colors of this interesting city ask others to create something unique here.

collision works 2

(Detroit Collision Works mockup)

Add to the color and build with this space. Imagine. Create.


(The first Collision Works container)

Detroit calls others like Shel to build here. Think and reimagine what's possible.

Detroit Collision Works 2

(Inside the container)

This weekend we celebrated the first container during flower day at Eastern Market. It was great to see the community visit and support the building of this community focused space.

What I love most is seeing others gather around storytelling, and also finding time to delve deeper into the stories of their own neighbors. Sharing stories creates empathy and understanding. It exposes the experiences of those living in the city that may not be revealed trough traditional media. It gives us a central place to learn and share our own stories.

Does your community have a physical location for storytelling? What do you think about a unique hotel like this?

(Inside the Container & Detroit Story photos via The Awsome Jeff Wegner).

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About Me

Amanda Lewan - Digital StorytellerOn a mission to inspire and unite others. Writer & Entrepreneur living in Detroit. This is my personal blog. Read more about me.

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