On the Edge of Growth: The New Value of Detroit

by | 10 January 2018

When you hit rock bottom the only way out is up. And that sentiment is especially true for Detroit. From sustainable ecosystems to safeguard the city against storm water overflow, to Ford Field’s consideration as a host for the 2026 World Cup Matches, the city is on a trajectory to greatness.

People have been talking about the Motor City since it first declared bankruptcy in 2013. That speculative conversation has taken a brighter turn, sparked by multi-million dollar commitments from Bedrock Detroit and JP Morgan, and Mayor Duggan’s proposed $125M bond fund to reinvest in the city’s infrastructure and contribute to Detroit’s re-emergence as a commerce destination.

Growing interest from experiential retailers and local brands are fueling supply and demand of CRE in downtown Detroit. Bedrock has been extremely involved in the curation of the merchandising mix—and it shows—as first-to-market concepts align their brands with the market. Their tenants include mainstays like John Varvatos and Nike, as well as local businesses Detroit Free Press, Roasting Plant and Drought.

The biggest buzz on the street is around Bedrock’s overhaul of two historic Woodward Avenue buildings, which will feature a Shinola-branded hotel. Shinola, a celebrated Detroit success story, is pushing boundaries to create a brick-and-mortar presence that capitalizes on experiential marketing. The luxury hotel will provide an exceptional and memorable experience for visitors, one that reflects Shinola’s commitment to craftsmanship and showcases Detroit’s unique assets. Shinola’s hotel is an example of many new, only-in-Detroit innovations that are defining a re-imagined city.

Detroit, City of Design

Two years ago, Detroit became the location for artists looking to build a community filled with possibilities. Today, the city boasts the highest concentration of industrial and commercial designers in the United States. Architectural design duo Akoaki has engaged the city in a co-working collaboration to preserve community nuances through a series of creative placemaking initiatives. Their efforts were recognized at the 2017 Biennale Internationale Design expo in Saint-Etienne, France, and earned Detroit the esteemed designation as a UNESCO City of Design.

The core of the redevelopment is in Downtown Detroit, but the ripple effects are cascading upward and outward into Midtown, Eastern Market and beyond. Think tank incubators and VC programs are surfacing to provide support and funding opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses. And food incubators are catching on as well. FEAST, or Food Entrepreneur Accelerator Startup Terminal, launched an Eastern Market facility to provide local food entrepreneurs a place to produce their product to help scale their businesses.

Not everyone has deep pockets

A collective of local home-grown activists, community-oriented citizens and progressive venture capitalists are deeply committed to maintaining the soulful pulse of the city. Independent fashion retailers are finding ways to carve out a space in the retail corridors, Detroit-based businesses are paving the way for development deals and nonprofits like Detroit Goodwill are expanding into social enterprise to incubate employee-owned businesses.

And then there are the city’s growth initiatives that aim to impact change through community development fellowship programs like Challenge Detroit, and the Detroit Economic Growth Corp, a nonprofit agency that promotes business retention, attraction and economic development.

Innovation is thriving so much that when an old business packs its bags, it doesn’t even register a blip on anyone’s radar. Instead, people are rallying around urban farming. MUFI or Michigan’s Urban Farm Initiative converted a vacant lot in the North End into a working farm. Agrihoods serve as a focal point in mixed-use developments. Detroit’s location is the first agrihood to operate in an identifiable city environment and includes a bustling two-acre urban garden and a 200-tree fruit orchard, that provides fresh, free produce to about 2,000 households annually.

Detroit’s heart beats with every person who puts faith and hope in its reawakening. From big corporations to mom and pop shops, it’s apparent that Detroiters are eager to steer the Motor City in a new direction.

Anjee continues to be an insatiable enthusiast of all things retail. She’s a student of culture with a pulse on future shoppers and the fleeting trends constantly changing the retail landscape … driving retailers, landlords and developers crazy!