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Time to Catch the Wave

The projects that are pushing the city’s economic resurgence forward

By George Jackson

Pages 22-24
It started with a big splash almost 10 years ago around Super Bowl XL and calmed down to a few ripples through the Great Recession, but it has been swelling back ever since. Smart investors from here and around the world are putting their money into Detroit right now because they want to catch the giant wave of economic resurgence that is carrying the city forward in ways that we haven’t seen here in decades.

The simplest explanation for this momentum is the strong collaboration of government with private companies, anchor institutions, philanthropic foundations, community-based organizations, other
non-profits, and our agency – the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.

Although you can point to dozens of successful collaborative efforts, here’s a list of ten projects that exemplify the breadth and depth of what those efforts have accomplished and where they are heading. They include projects that represent different parts of the city, different industries, and different stages of implementation, starting with several that have launched in the last year.

Gateway Marketplace
Anchored by a Meijer Superstore, this $62 million shopping center on Detroit’s northern boundary is the largest retail development in the city in decades. Along with the opening of Whole Foods Market, it represents important new choices for Detroit grocery shoppers. It also signals how significant investments are moving beyond downtown and into Detroit’s neighborhoods.

The Livernois Corridor
The reawakening of the Avenue of Fashion is well under way thanks to a strong collaboration from community partners, anchor institutions, and a mix of funding support from local and state government and foundations. As permanent and pop-up stores are opening, and artists are creating unique installations, a strong sense of place is returning to this iconic district. It’s yet another sign of redevelopment beyond downtown.

Sakthi Automotive and Hyundai Mobis
In a remarkable arrangement, both of these automotive suppliers are manufacturing components for
Chrysler under the same roof in southwest Detroit. Not only does this demonstrate that Detroit still has the talent and infrastructure for advanced manufacturing, but it also shows the city’s attractiveness to investments from overseas. Sakthi is based in India, and Hyundai in South Korea. Another joint
venture firm, Detroit Manufacturing Systems, has a minority investment from the French automotive supplier Faurecia.

The Detroit RiverWalk and Dequindre Greenways
The 3.5 mile RiverWalk and the milelong Dequindre Trail and Cut have become favorite attractions for Detroit residents and visitors who want to experience a great international waterway. Construction is about to begin on a northern extension of the Greenway that will connect it to Eastern Market. The RiverWalk itself will eventually run six miles long from Gabriel Richard Park at the Belle Isle Bridge to Riverside Park at the Ambassador Bridge. These projects represent how public investment based on a master plan is leading a complete transformation of the East Riverfront from industrial to residential, recreational and other mixed uses.

Rivertown Phase One
This $55 million mixed-use development of 300 apartments and retail storefronts next to the Detroit RiverWalk, Dequindre Greenway and Milliken State Park is the first major residential project that specifically takes advantage of those recreational attractions. In doing so, it embodies the vision of the East Riverfront master plan.

Broderick Tower
Who would have guessed five years ago that the historic Broderick Tower would reopen as a luxury apartment building and essentially sell out in a matter of weeks? The strong demand for living spaces in this iconic skyscraper in the heart of downtown sends a powerful message to other developers.

Cobo Center – Renovated
The $279 million makeover of Cobo Center is more than halfway done, and the results so far have already supported a bigger and better North American International Auto Show. As the next phases of renovation are completed, visitors will experience breathtaking views of the Detroit River and many events in a spectacular new set of Grand Ballrooms. The Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority that manages the facility has become a model for regional collaboration.

The Arena District
Much more than a big box for hockey, the $650 million of private and public investment in this key part of downtown will generate a truly unique urban sports, entertainment, residential, retail and office district. The location – within a walkable distance to Comerica Park, Ford Field, Masonic Temple Theater, the Fox Theatre, Michigan Opera Theater, Music Hall, the Fillmore and Gem Theater – ensures that the district will be lively 365 days a year.

M1 Rail
Construction is about to begin on this 3.3-mile streetcar line that will be key to connecting neighborhoods within downtown, Midtown and New Center to each other, and eventually to a fully coordinated regional public transit system. The Downtown Development Authority is investing in this project because transit-related development has been successful in other cities, and the Woodward Corridor has all the right ingredients for success here.

Eds and Meds Growth
Every major medical and educational institution in Detroit is taking part in its revitalization – from more than a billion dollars being invested in new medical facilities to innovative programs for creative students to engage with communities. Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Health System, Wayne State University, University of Detroit Mercy, Marygrove College, College for Creative Studies, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan are all active in Detroit’s redevelopment. Those commitments are helping to stabilize and restore communities in key districts around the city as “Eds and Meds” clusters, and the commitments by several of these anchor institutions to purchase more of their goods and services from Detroit-based suppliers multiplies the impact of their presence.

Each project represents a significant milestone in its own right. Put them together, and it’s easy to see how far we have come and how quickly we are moving ahead. You can see why those of us at DEGC think this may truly be the perfect time to invest in Detroit. The upside for a return on an investment is huge, and the indicators for success are positive. If the sand and the beach chairs at Campus Martius haven’t already given you the cue – it’s time to catch the wave of success in Detroit.

George Jackson is president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.