The Transformation Continues
How do you bring about a turnaround? Troll a few Web forums, attend a
few lectures, read the local columnists' weekly offerings, and it seems
everyone and their online alter ego has got an opinion.
how about less talky-talky and more action? Right now, there are huge
projects under way that will pave the way for more development, and,
possibly most importantly, these projects will change the way we feel
about and use the Motor City.
Here are five such projects: the
East Riverfront, the Book-Cadillac rehab, the new Rosa Parks Transit
Center, Eastern Market's face-lift and a new system of greenways.
you take in this list, bear in mind that it was challenging to narrow
this to five. By no means are these the biggest or the only stories of
a transforming Detroit. Plans for TechTown,
the former Tiger Stadium,
downtown cleaning crews
, the old Avenue of Fashion and the Port
Authority will be huge.
The city's transformation has started, and these five represent just some of the projects that are ushering it along.Along the river
don't have to be a card-carrying member of a Detroit booster club to
get excited about the progress along the East Riverfront.
are proudly showing off sketches of shops, restaurants, condos,
townhomes, lofts and pretty people walking the riverfront streets.
Meanwhile, crews are out there hammering away, making visible progress
on one key asset to the new riverfront — the RiverWalk
that will span
from the Ambassador Bridge to just past Belle Isle.
The work on
the RiverWalk — the eastern portion will be 75 percent complete by the
year's end — is a sign that things are going to change here, and fast.
major visible construction under way," says Faye Nelson of the Detroit
Riverfront Conservancy. "It is a transformative project, and it’s real
and it’s happening."
The pedestrian and bike pathway is one
infrastructure improvement that's making further riverfront development
more attractive. The $250 million trail is also transformative because
it's brought together a huge variety of players to make it happen.
Cullen, GM's director of economic development and enterprise services
and Riverfront Conservancy co-chairman, says the project has brought
dollars into the city from
foundations that haven’t invested here in years. And Nelson says that
it has taken cooperation from the private sector, as well as city,
state and federal government to move it forward. "This project really
demonstrates that public-private relationship can really exist and be
successful," Nelson says, adding that the list of partners "is
continuing to grow every single day."
The entrepreneurial plans for the banks of the Detroit River are also moving forward.
Pangborn's Asian Village
concept will be open this fall, with a mix of
cultural events, fine dining, an upscale bar and lounge, a sushi bar
Industrialist and ex-Piston Dave Bing has
enlisted a virtual Michigan sports hall of fame — Derrick Coleman, Joe
Dumars, Jalen Rose, Isiah Thomas and Chris Webber — to invest in his
project that will put 110 condos on the riverfront.
Other plans include:
• Dwight Belyue's @water Lofts, a $430 million, 480-unit, mixed-use project.
• Jerome Bettis/Chuck Betters' $25 million, 64-unit mixed-use condos.
GM's 13-acre commercial, residential, retail, office and entertainment
project east of the Renaissance Center, to be developed by
Chicago-based Mesirow Stein Real Estate Inc. and Morningside Equities
Plus, George Jackson, president of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp.
, said that the city would call for proposals for
additional riverfront sites along Riopelle soon (it has three of its
seven sites left to bid out).
He said the riverfront is going to
serve as a model for other projects in the city, and it's finally going
to take advantage of a city resource that's been undervalued for
"It's a complete transformation of an area that all
of us who have been around Detroit for a while – and especially native
Detroiters — have said, 'Boy, I wish we could do something with that
riverfront.'"Another role model
Book-Cadillac redevelopment also will be a model for projects to come.
For days last week, lawyers and clients were in the Buhl Building
signing mounds of papers to close the Book-Cadillac hotel redevelopment
"It really is happening," says Dave Blaszkiewicz,
president of the Detroit Investment Fund
, speaking last Friday, a day
after closing on his part of the deal.
The closing itself is
remarkable. With 17 extremely complicated layers of financing, the
Book-Caddy deal is a chance to show that Detroit can get major projects
done. It will also serve as a sign to the general public that the
turnaround can and is happening in downtown Detroit. "I think that is
going to be one of the projects that will provide evidence to others
who are not in the trenches," Blaszkiewicz says.
wouldn't have happened without massive amounts of cooperation,
especially from the city and its development arms, he says. "The city,
ultimately, has been extremely helpful," Blaszkiewicz says, singling
out Jackson and his DEGC for their support.
Once all the ink is
dry, Cleveland-based Ferchill Group will start the physical work on the
$176 million rehab of the 1924 hotel. The hotel will house 66 luxury
condominiums, and the Westin Book-Cadillac with 455 hotel rooms. Work
should start within a few weeks and take at least a couple years.Transit, transit, transit
watch for work ramping up soon in Times Square. The Detroit Economic
Growth Corp. recently called for bids for crews to start demolition
work needed to build the $15 million Rosa Park Transit Center.
25,000-square-foot center, to be funded with federal and state money,
will take up two city blocks in an area bounded by Grand River,
Michigan, Park Place, Cass and Times Square Street. It's right near a
People Mover Station.
A cool-looking bus stop (the Chene
Park-like canopy design is pretty sweet) ain't a Detroit to Ann Arbor
high-speed train, to be sure, but it's a strong endorsement for
improving what we've got, and a statement that there is a place for
transit in Motown.
Plus, this project bodes well for Capitol
Park, site of the temporary bus depot. When the big buses move out, developers
say those with their eyes on expanding the Woodward vibe outward will
hit Capitol Park next.
"Capitol Park, if you look at the scale
of the buildings, look at the layout of those streets, if you look at
the park — that is just a prime candidate for a residential
neighborhood with mixed-use housing and retail," Blaszkiewicz says.Everything's gone green
Meanwhile, the dream of a greener, more pedestrian-friendly city is inching toward reality.
trails linking Detroit neighborhoods and stretching to adjoining
suburbs are being planned, mapped out and in the early stages of
development. Greenways projects are planned for:
• Southwest Detroit-East Dearborn;
• Lyndon Avenue in Northwest Detroit;
• Conner Creek on the Detroit’s Eastside;
• Electric Avenue in Southwest Detroit. Greening of Detroit and the city
are working together to coordinate the projects.
of the most intriguing greenways is the trail being developed in the
Dequindre Cut, a stretch of former railway line that once ran 25-feet
below ground level from Eastern Market to the riverfront. Work on the Cut has
quietly begun and is expected to be finished this year.
When finished, the Dequindre Cut will be
a non-motorized “people mover” linking the Detroit River, the RiverWalk
and Tri-Centennial State Park with Eastern Market. A spoke to Midtown,
including access to Detroit’s Cultural Center and Wayne State
University, and a long-range plan to link the Hamtramck trail to the
Cut are also being planned.
The Cut holds sentimental value
for lovers of Detroit outsider art. It is strewn with paintings,
sculptures and bombed with graffiti documenting a slice of local social
history. It has become, unofficially, one of the city’s few public art
parks and is a favorite destination for urban explorers and
When it is finished, one half of the
one-mile trail will have separate biking and walking paths and will
include lighting and security cameras. The other half will be left in
natural grasses and reserved for potential future rail transit. Eastern Market
Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick what he thinks will be the next big neighborhood
to boom for the City of Detroit, and he doesn't pause. "Eastern
Market," he told Model D recently.
going plan is to make Eastern Market a seven-day market, give the
facility a $17 million facelift, encourage new retail in the area, and
assign management to a nonprofit. Kate Beebe, one of the principle
architects behind the plan, says the plan would make the market a
survey that was done on Eastern Market shoppers found that the number
one reason for people coming to the market was that they like the urban
mix,” she says. “Food was the number two reason. ... We want to create
even more reasons for 'foodies,' for people who would drive five miles
for that special item, to come to the Eastern Market.”A different picture of Detroit
spaces, public/private cooperation, transit, investment, new housing —
put it together and a different picture of Detroit starts to emerge.
Yet, this is no time for complacency.
speculation about luring the next big company to put a headquarters
downtown; ideas are brewing about things like building a creative district
of shops, restaurants, studios and work space; and passionate pleas are being made for
improving transit in a meaningful way.
"We're not done with
downtown yet, as you know," Blaszkiewicz says, with a measure of
caution. "I'd hate to see us lose our focus on that. But we've made
Writers Walter Wasacz and Glen Morren contributed to this story.
Transit Center Conceptual Drawing
Bus at Capitol Park
Dequindre Cut Greenway
All Photographs Copyright Dave Krieger