September was a busy month in Detroit, starting with the Detroit Auto Show, then JPMorgan Chase celebrating $200 million invested over ten years in Detroit, followed by DDP’s annual Fall Forum: A Real Estate Update and Detroit Homecoming. The entire month was summed up best by JPMorgan Chase Vice Chairman Peter Scher when he said, “Detroit’s resurgence is a testament to what can be accomplished when government, business, and community leaders come together to create economic opportunity.”
There’s a buzz about Detroit, and with good reason. At the Fall Forum, the DDP reported more than $2.8 billion in new construction investments Downtown. That figure includes everything from retail to residential and from hospitality to, yes, even office space. A big jump from 2013, when Detroit entered bankruptcy and development had all but halted. What a difference a decade makes.
The DDP is documenting 22 projects recently completed or currently under construction and tracking another 25 projects in the development pipeline – a 200% increase from 2022. Over the last year, we witnessed an increase in more than 1,000 new residential units in and around Downtown. I could continue, but you can find all this and more from the DDP’s Downtown Datascape and the 2023 Downtown Detroit Community and Development Update.
But beyond what IS happening Downtown is what COULD happen Downtown, and that buzz was delivered by Fall Forum keynote speaker John Waller, principal and managing partner of Gensler Detroit. John emphasized the DDP’s vision of creating a 24/7 live/work/play experience and opened attendees’ eyes to the possibilities of adaptive reuse.
What if we have all the buildings we need? What if we turned offices into hotels and residences? What if 40 percent of our offices disappeared and the city had three times the residents it has now?
During the Fall Forum panel, I asked DDP Board Member Kevin Johnson, president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, what attracts businesses to Detroit and where we can do more. His answer reinforced DDP’s efforts and focus: access to a skilled workforce, investments in infrastructure, accessible housing, innovation and entrepreneurship, quality of life, and diversification. If you missed the panel, we will feature an exclusive interview with Kevin in next month’s CEO note.
Our city is certainly not without its challenges. Mayor Mike Duggan and his team have done a remarkable job, but there is much more that we can do, including improving our schools, transportation, safety, and more.
We must remember our city is also not averse to change and courageous growth. John Waller said, “We have an opportunity to transform our downtown by creating a place people want to be.”
Do we have the collective vision to make things happen that are truly transformational? DDP does. Do you?
Now, that would create some buzz.
Eric B. Larson
CEO, Downtown Detroit Partnership
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