Developing Detroit: Year in Review - Midtown and Downtown drove development in 2012

Posted on January 3, 2013

Compared to recent years, 2012 could be seen as a year that someone threw a brick on the accelerator for development in the Motor City. One could argue that that someone was Dan Gilbert, the founder of Quicken Loans and Rock Ventures who was behind the purchase of eight buildings throughout the year, but he certainly did not act alone. And while development is hot in a few pockets of the city, the Motor City is by no means out of the woods, with vast areas of vacant land and blighted properties (not to mention crime and poverty).

Regardless, it has been quite a year for development in the Motor City, and below we choose a few of the highlights.

Downtown and Midtown are the two areas that are seeing the most activity, as demand for new residential housing has far outpaced construction of new apartments. But here were two major developments in each neighborhood that at least added to some capacity:

  • The 36-floor, $53 million Broderick Tower in Downtown Detroit opened to residents in November, adding 124 apartments downtown. The David Whitney Building, across the street, will be developed next.
  • Also in November, the 56,000-square-foot Auburn in Midtown opened its 58 units to residents.

Dan Gilbert’s Rock Ventures added eight buildings to its portfolio, in addition to announcing plans for a a retail and parking development downtown:

  • Gilbert’s move into Downtown Detroit actually started five years ago. Here’s a complete timeline of the Quicken Loans-billionaire’s investments in the city.
  • Gilbert’s Rock Ventures is building a 535,000-square-foot, Z-shaped parking garage and retail development that will zig zag from the corner of Broadway and East Grand River to the corner of Gratiot and Library.

In Midtown, Sue Mosey and Midtown Detroit Inc. have a dizzying amount of projects going on in the neighborhood.

Corktown gained national recognition for being an eclectic part of the city whereindependent retail continues to thrive. But these are just three areas of the 143-square-mile city. Anyone who drives through neighborhoods like Delray or the northeast of Detroit sees that blight is a major problem. There is a kind of grassroots effort that addressed this issue as part of a and will continue to do so:

  • Detroit has an estimated 79,000 vacant properties. Wayne County has about 43,000 homes that are at risk of tax foreclosure and inclusion in a 2013 property auction. At the most recent Wayne County foreclosure auction, the largest in the world, 8,000 tax-foreclosed properties went unsold despite a starting bid of just $500. It begged the question, What can be done with all the empty properties left over?

The Detroit area was not immune to a the consolidation trend affecting health systems in the United States:

  • In October, the boards of directors of the non-profit Henry Ford and Beaumont health systems signed a letter of intent to combine their operations into a single entity. When all said and done, the combined system will have 42,000 full-time employees and about $6.4 billion in revenues, as well as 10 hospitals and dozens of other facilities.

In December, the wheels were put in motion for a new Detroit Red Wings arena and entertainment district:

It may be years away from construction, and a definite location has not yet been settled on, but earlier this month the state senate passed legislation that put plans for a $650 million Detroit Red Wings arena and entertainment district in downtown Detroit, spearheaded by the Ilitch family, closer to becoming a reality.

Here are some of the other top development stories from 2012:

  • Wayne State University broke ground on a $93 million, 200,000-square-foot Multidisciplinary Biomedical Research Building at 6187 Woodward Ave. in Midtown. It is the university’s largest-ever construction project.
  • Tech magazine Popular Mechanics took a look at the Motor City’s past and present and offered several hypothetical, future scenarios in a series of articles titled “Detroit 2025: After the Recession, a City Reimagined.”
  • In its second year, Hatch Detroit had a total of 250 business plans submitted, which represents a rise of 25 percent over last year. The contest, which awards the best new retail concept $50,000 in start-up support, was won by La Feria, Spanish tapas restaurant that will open in Midtown. Several of the contestants said they would move forward with retail plans of their own, regardless of whether they won.
  • The $230 million Gateway plaza, linking major Detroit highways with Canada via the Ambassador Bridge, opened to traffic in September.
  • Former Michigan State University and Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson, former Detroit Deputy Fire Commissioner Marvin Beatty and Joel Ferguson submitted redevelopment plans for the mostly vacant, 162-acre former state fairgrounds property to the state Land Bank Fast Track Authority. The trio’s plans, which are now subject to state and local boards’ approval, call for 500,000 square feet of retail and housing at the site, located at Woodward Avenue and 8 Mile Road.
  • Triple Properties, the company that owns the 47-floor Penobscot Building and three structures adjacent to it, told MLive it envisions continuous, covered retail for downtown Detroit.
  • Detroit’s Central Business District got a boost as 1,500 Title Source employeesmoved in to the First National Building.
  • The historic redevelopment of the city’s riverfront continued with a ceremonial groundbreaking last summer. Eventually, the public will have access to a 3-1/2 mile stretch of open space along the Detroit River from Joe Louis Arena to Gabriel Richard Park.

David Muller, MLive.