Detroit. The Motor City. Motown. UNESCO City of Design.
Detroit has changed significantly over the past two decades. The Cass Corridor neighborhood I lived in 18 years ago, is almost unrecognizable. The area was notorious for a lot of things back then. These days the corridor is known as the home of luxury bicycle and watchmaker Shinola, Jack White’s Third Man Records and sour beer purveyor Jolly Pumpkin, made nationally famous when President Obama stopped in for a visit.
It’s a narrative that is becoming common. Per CBRE’s 2017 Detroit Downtown Development Report, the next three years of development are projected to include more than 6,000 apartment units, 2 million square feet of commercial office space and 1,200 hotel units, totaling $5.4 billion in investments.
This work would not be possible without the support of key visionaries, namely Dan Gilbert—founder of Quicken Loans, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and board member at the Cleveland Clinic—and the Ilitch family—owners of the Little Caesars Pizza franchise and the Detroit Red Wings. Their grand visions of the downtown core have helped catapult the work of other long-time Detroit residents. The neighborhood effort is being led by the new director of city planning, Maurice Cox. His vision for creating hubs of 20-minute neighborhoods throughout the city is an attempt to spread equity and access to quality retail, housing and recreation to all corners of the city.
Much of this development would not be happening if the city wasn’t otherwise experiencing healthy growth, primarily due to technology jobs. CBRE’s report indicates that job growth in the metro area has increased by nearly 120,000 jobs since 2016. The top 25 employers in Detroit alone have added almost 17,000 of those jobs. With this job growth came nearly 800,000 square feet of office space, forecast to more than double by the end of 2018.
Due to a variety of factors, CBRE projects a plethora of new commercial office space construction over the next several years to meet demand. Due to the lack of currently available space, downtown lease rates have just surpassed suburban rates for the first time in decades. The same trends can be seen in the multi-family market, with rates having increased by almost 100% since 2009. To further spur development activities, Michigan recently signed new tax incentives into law for large-scale developments of more than $500 million.
It’s an exciting time to be in Detroit and the city is continuing to go through an amazing transformation. There is a creative energy in this city that has always been peeking its head out from under the surface, always watching and waiting to re-emerge. For architects and designers, that time is now. We have the chance to continue the path of those that came before us. With a new momentum for development inside the city limits, creative energy can now be turned inward and focused on our own turf.