Editor’s Note: Detroit’s world-class convention center, formerly known as Cobo Center, was officially renamed TCF Center, as announced by TCF National Bank on Aug. 27, 2019.

Detroit’s downtown area is filling up with exciting new businesses

You can feel the buzz in Detroit—the buzz of a city that is on the move as it reinvents itself and regains stable footing.

It’s a very welcome feeling in the city, which has rebounded after losing some businesses, as well as about 300,000 residents around the time of the recent recession. It became the largest U.S. municipality to declare bankruptcy, but through a concerted city-wide effort, its downtown area is filling up with new, modern businesses and innovative sustainability features—and many locals are confident the resurgence will spread to other neighborhoods.

Smart Meetings was in Detroit June 2–5 to participate in the 2019 Sustainable Event Professional Certificate Programme, offered by Events Industry Council. It ran concurrently with Sustainable Brands ’19 Detroit, which was also held at Cobo Center.


Most participants in the certificate program flew into one of the world’s leading transportation hubs, Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW). It offers nonstop flights to more than 140 destinations and handles more than 1,100 flights per day to and from four continents.

Meet and Sleep

Participants stayed at Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center. Located on the famous RiverWalk, the 70-floor hotel offers views of downtown Detroit, the Detroit River and Canada. The property provides 1,246 guest rooms, 52 suites, and 100,240 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space, including a convention center and three ballrooms. It is near many downtown Detroit attractions and has direct access to the People Mover transit system, which transports guests to Cobo Center, among other places.

The 17th-largest convention center in the United States, Cobo Center is about a 10-minute walk from Detroit Marriott. Cobo provides 623,000 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibition space, along with 225,000 sq. ft. of breakout and meeting space, including 100 meeting rooms. A $279 million upgrade of the center, completed in 2015, included many green building components, including low-flow restrooms and kitchen equipment, energy efficient HVAC equipment and a living, “green” roof that features beehives and gardens. The harvested honey and herbs grown on the roof are used to prepare meals in the kitchen.


There’s plenty to do in Detroit, and a great way to find out is by taking one of the many bus tours. Highlights include Hitsville USA, Motown’s first headquarters; the Ford Motor Company’s historically significant sites; and, of course, the buoyant downtown area, which not only is attracting new businesses, but also contains the city’s major professional sports venues, clustered in the same area: Comerica Park (home of MLB’s Detroit Tigers ), Ford Field (home of NFL’s Detroit Lions ), and Little Caesars Arena (home of NHL’s Detroit Red Wings and NBA’s Detroit Pistons).

Eat and Drink

During our stay, one evening we ate at Lumen Detroit, featuring locally sourced seafood and a “green” area surrounding the rooftop patio. Lumen is in Beacon Park, a 1.5-acre “green” space on Cass and Grand River avenues. DTE Energy developed the park to create a “beacon” for the surrounding community and to spread downtown development northwest, along Grand River Avenue. Downtown Detroit Partnership, which operates the park, hosts concerts, movie nights, pub nights and other events there.

The group’s final dinner took place at HopCat Detroit, a restaurant and craft beer bar. It offers Michigan’s largest tap selection—130 craft beer taps—and food made from scratch, including burgers, salads, sandwiches and wraps. The second floor features the Huma Room, an entertainment venue with a full bar and 30 beer selections that is available for corporate rentals, parties and other special events.