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A Business Boom

No signs of slowdown in development downtown

By Sue Mosey

Page 13

Throughout Detroit there is no other place where development is happening at such a pace and scale than that of the greater Downtown District. Inclusive of Midtown, New Center and the Central Business District, the area has seen stabilization in population and interest from the public, private and philanthropic sectors, which have led to a boom in development.

In the Midtown neighborhood (including New Center), contributing factors have included the development of an innovative residential incentive program, campus expansion plans for anchor institutions, construction of more rental based, mixeduse, multi-family unit developments, infrastructure projects, commitment of locally owned small businesses to locate in the district and successful cultural events such as Dlectricity, Art X Detroit Festival and Noel Night. With efforts led by Midtown Detroit, Inc. (MDI), the neighborhood’s non-pro t planning and development organization, area anchor institutions and community stakeholders have become engaged in its programs, projects, and development activities, leveraging further investment from banks, developers, investors and additional philanthropic organizations.

In 2011, MDI, in partnership with the Hudson-Webber Foundation, Detroit Medical Center (DMC), Henry Ford Health System (HFHS), Wayne State University (WSU) and U3 Ventures Consulting  firm, launched “Live Midtown.” The program provides eligible anchor employees financial incentives to rent, purchase, or complete exterior improvements to their residential properties in the district. The program has served more than 686 households since its inception and residential occupancy rates have climbed to 96 percent. Midtown has become a housing hotspot due to this program’s popularity, the availability of diverse housing stock, and the high concentration of rental units that meet the needs of the growing community. This stabilization in population has driven demand for more housing.

In the last two years, Midtown has seen the opening of several new mixed-income and market-rate housing developments. As the population has grown, so has the desire for locally owned small businesses, national retailers and service providers to locate in the district. This has led to the repurposing and rehabilitation of many of the vacant, often historically significant, buildings in the community. Additionally, as viable building rehabilitation opportunities are becoming more scarce, developers are beginning to create new commercial real estate projects in the district, especially along Woodward Avenue, home of the planned M1 Rail.

In early 2012, MDI received funding from the New Economy Initiative to conduct a comprehensive district plan for TechTown. The plan, completed in 2013, provided an inspiring vision for the revitalization of the district. TechTown is currently characterized by surface parking, vacant properties and isolated hubs of
activity. The plan’s concept, however, aims to embrace the area as a knowledge district by accelerating innovation, promoting entrepreneurship, and building community around the generation of ideas in a vibrant, mixed-use setting. The plan repurposes the historic building stock with uses that support innovation and create vibrancy, and also strengthens connections within Midtown and surrounding neighborhoods.

To continue to attract and retain new residents and businesses, MDI is creating a walkable, livable community with easy access to the area’s growing amenities. MDI has created and maintained clean, safe and attractive public spaces, parks, streetscapes, greenways and bike lanes that connect the community, and signature events that celebrate arts and culture. The vibrant community draws customers to area shops and restaurants, which is critical to the continued success of Midtown’s retailers. A strong economy offers new jobs for local residents and increased revenue from sales taxes, all of which support the city as a whole. Through MDI’s continued work with partners across the philanthropic, public, private, civic, and non-profit sectors, Midtown has experienced tremendous growth with no signs of slowing down.

Sue Mosey is the president of Midtown Detroit, Inc.