2013 was a remarkable year for economic development in the city of Detroit — all the more remarkable because municipal government filed for bankruptcy in July. Developments in federal court, however, did not stop important progress on DEGC projects that demonstrate strength in a number of important areas: a vibrant Downtown, rebounding retail development, saving and adding manufacturing jobs, revitalized neighborhood businesses, and implementation of a broad strategic framework for future development. Here are a few examples.
General Motors is investing $105 million to upgrade its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant that builds Chevy Volts and Malibus. The French automotive supplier Faurecia has invested in the joint venture firm, Detroit Manufacturing Systems, which operates a plant in the Gateway Industrial Center. New Center Stamping is adding jobs as it installs a high-efficiency production line. Sakthi Automotive and Hyundai Mobis are manufacturing automotive components under the same roof in Southwest Detroit. These developments demonstrate that Detroit still has the talent and infrastructure for advanced manufacturing; it also shows the city’s attractiveness to investments from overseas.
Rivertown Phase One is a $55 million dollar mixed use development of 300 apartments and retail storefronts next to the Detroit RiverWalk, Dequindre Greenway and Milliken State Park. It 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.
Yes, there are excellent choices for grocery shopping in the city. Meijer opened its first ever store in Detroit at Gateway Marketplace, a $62 million shopping center on Detroit’s northern boundary. Whole Foods Market opened its first Detroit store in Midtown, and a number of Detroit’s strong independent grocers have invested in major store improvements. These represent important new choices for Detroit grocery shoppers, especially because they are taking places in neighborhoods around the city. There is still significant work to be done, but 2013 was a huge leap forward.
The re-awakening of the Avenue of Fashion along Livernois is well underway 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 businesses are opening and artists are creating unique installations, a strong sense of place is returning to this iconic district. And it’s another sign of redevelopment beyond Downtown.
Bicycling and Walking
Biking, running and walking have become hugely popular in Detroit, and DEGC is supporting that trend as a part of a City-led collaboration that is investing $23 million to create designated bike routes crisscrossing Detroit. As part of that project, construction has already begun on a northern extension of the Dequindre Cut Greenway that will connect it to Eastern Market at Wilkins St.
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.
Each of these represents a significant milestone in its own right. Put them together and it is easy to see how far we have come, and how quickly we are moving ahead. As the pace accelerates, it is good that we have a solid planning framework in place in Detroit Future City. As Ken Cockrel joins the leadership team for the DFC Implementation Office (noted in this newsletter), we are in a strong position for a terrific 2014.
George W. Jackson, Jr.
President and CEO