Panelist Chris Leinberger, senior fellow with the Brookings Institution, started by outlining that downtown Detroit was a walkable urban community in the 1920s. However, he said, in the 1980s, it moved to the car-centric suburban model, which resulted in the downtown area completely abandoned in favor of regional malls and business parks in suburbia. But, as of the mid-1990s, said Leinberger, Detroit started to rethink its urban strategy and sparked a revitalization that continues today.
“Detroit is going through a regrowth and rebirth,” said Leinberger. “And it’s also building the necessary infrastructure.” So he encouraged session participants to consider development in Detroit as part of their future strategy, noting that the city is drawing top employers like Quicken Loans and Blue Cross to the downtown area and is also building a light rail train that is 100 percent private sector funded.
And, added Leinberger, “Detroit is the second fastest market share gainer in office space and is in the U.S. top 20 percent in economic growth.” When it comes to drawing multifamily to the city, he also noted that Detroit’s unions are offering top notch training and a pipeline of workers that is a resource for skilled workers for the multifamily industry.
Panelist Jonathan Holtzman, CEO of Village Green, summed up Detroit’s new potential best by saying that, these days, “Detroit is about so much more than just the big three automakers.”