Signs of Rebound in the D

Very quickly today I’m going to go back to my hometown and my inspiration for starting this blog, Detroit.

I saw an article in today’s Detroit News that shows that rental demand is growing in the Downtown, Midtown and New Center areas of Detroit.  This is a fairly new phenomenon for Detroit:

Brad Jones, 25, a member of the marketing team at Detroit-based Quicken Loans Inc., found a 1,100-square-foot apartment at the Woodward Loft for $750 a month. But it took some luck.

“They had one vacancy open because a gentleman had moved out the day before,” Jones said. “I was extremely lucky to find a place. All of the other six buildings I stopped into were full and were going to be full for five to six months.”

The squeeze is likely to continue even as developers begin to complete new apartments by renovating old buildings, instead of building new structures. For example, the Newbury Hall Building in Midtown already has leased all of its 28 apartments, while the Broderick Tower in downtown has reservations for 90 of its planned 124 rental units.

This has been accomplished in part by the collective actions of some of Detroit’s major corporations (outside of the Big Three) and institutions:

Jones took advantage of the Live Downtown incentive, which gives up to $2,500 the first year and $1,000 the second year for new renters in the downtown, Corktown, Eastern Market, Lafayette Park, Midtown and Woodbridge areas.

To date, 445 employees of Detroit companies have participated in the Live Downtown and Live Midtown programs that pay workers to relocate to Detroit or stay in the city.

In the Midtown program, the Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Health System and Wayne State University offer employees either the cash for rent, a $20,000 forgivable loan for new homeowners or up to $5,000 in matching funds for existing homeowners to do exterior improvement projects of $10,000 or more.

The downtown program offers practically the same incentives for employees of Quicken Loans, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Compuware Corp., DTE Energy, Strategic Staffing Solutions and Marketing Associates.I’m happy to see this taking place in Detroit, yet a little sad that it’s taken as long as it has to happen. Cities around the country a made similar transition beginning in the ’90s, usually building on the eds-and-meds advantage that cities often have over suburban locales. While working on a corridor plan in West Philadelphia 10 years ago, I saw the same actions at work around the University of Pennsylvania, and it’s led to some successes there over the ensuing decade. Cities like Philadelphia now have a 10-15 year headstart on Detroit in doing this.

However, I think efforts like these are crucial for Detroit’s future success.

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