Last month the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation promoted economic development and retail opportunities within the City of Detroit to an international audience. The 2007 International Council of Shopping Centers Spring Conference hosted over 50,000 attendees from all over the world. The DEGC’s mission: convince retailers to Choose Detroit! This mission has been made a little easier with all of the great things happening in Detroit.
Any recent visitor to Detroit can see that the city is reinventing itself. Its rust belt image is being polished off to reveal a high-tech, culturally-rich urban center. Detroit is transforming its downtown, stabilizing its historic neighborhoods, and building on its technology assets to diversify its economy.
For the last four years, Detroit has been a regional leader in housing starts, and number one for the last two years running. Detroit’s international waterfront is shedding its former industrial identity, transforming it into a vibrant, mixed-use district, including a continuous RiverWalk stretching over two miles from downtown to the city’s urban island park, Belle Isle. Already Downtown has experienced a facelift like no other in recent history, with $20 million in streetscape improvements along major commercial corridors and 90 façade improvements valued at over $18 million in investment. According to Comerica Bank, Detroit has seen over $29.5 billion in investments since 1994. These are accomplishments to be proud of, and the building blocks of a transformation that will not only benefit the city of Detroit, but our entire region.
Our pride in these successes translated into our meetings with retailers and developers, who had also been hearing about the positive things happening in Detroit and wanted to learn more. Our business attraction team is currently following up on these contacts, including scheduling visits to Detroit. While great deals take time and relationship-building, we believe that we’ve started down that path on the right foot.
In the coming months, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation will be sharing more information about its new partnership with Social Compact, a national nonprofit that has pioneered an innovative tool to assess the market strength in underserved communities. Together, we are embarking on a multi-year initiative to attract retail to Detroit’s ripe markets. Social Compact’s preliminary research has supported what we knew all along—that several neighborhoods, including downtown, have the purchasing power and population to support a strong retail climate. As we saw in Las Vegas, accurate information that shows both the market potential and the good things happening in the city will attract the interest we need to continue to be successful.
Olga Savic, Director, Strategy and External Affairs, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation