This Is What Detroit Could Look Like In 2033 … And Beyond

December 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’ve never been to Detroit and only know what you see in the news, a story about the city’s future could seem confusing.

Change is brewing in the Motor City. New projects are targeting investment in hotspots like downtown and Midtown, and the city’s neighborhoods could see major transformations under long-term plans like Detroit Future City.

Some of those changes are a long way off, but others are already under way — enough that we can take a peek at 18 examples of the Detroit of the future…

1. The Globe Building

This century-old warehouse along the Detroit River is one of the last remaining buildings of a major shipbuilding complex that helped develop maritime trade on the Great Lakes. Rather than knock it all down, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is saving half the warehouse. The new Discovery Center will offer visitors an archery range, 60-foot climbing wall, water sports simulator rides and classrooms to teach kids about Michigan’s wetlands and natural resources. The project is being developed by the Roxbury Group for a total cost of $12.8 million.



globe building
2. Mini Campus Martius

Energy company DTE is turning this former parking lot into a park with food trucks and events echoing Campus Martius in Detroit’s downtown. Mini Campus Martius may begin a push to revitalize more of the area around Third Street and Bagley, rebranding it “Western Downtown.”

mini campus martius

mini campus martius
3. TechTown

Straddling Midtown and New Center, business incubator TechTown plans to expand its reach to encompass a 149-acre campus north of Wayne State University. The plan is being put together with the help of Midtown Inc., landscape architecture and urban design firm Sasaki Associates and U3 Ventures. The TechTown building is already being transformed into a collaborative space with a communal kitchen and areas to host pop-ups, and Sasaki’s winning neighborhood revitalization plan includes a central outdoor plaza that will host moveable, adaptable workstations, fabrication labs and fire pits. A cafe, projection screen and climbing wall would attract visitors in the summer, while curling lanes and campfires would keep the plaza active when snow falls.

woodward avenue detroit

4. New International Trade Crossing

Despite ongoing legal and political roadblocks thrown up by billionaire Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun, the governments of Canada and Michigan plan to build a second international bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor within the next seven years to enhance their $70 billion-a-year trade relationship. The cost to build Michigan’s half of the $950 million span will be repaid through tolls collected on the Canadian side.

new international bridge crossing

new international bridge crossing
5. Woodward Gardens

The last phases of the Woodward Gardens renovation in Midtown are almost complete. Earlier renovations of the Blue Moon Building brought the Great Lakes Coffee bar and offices for Midtown, Inc. Other developments include the new Garden Theatre, with a 1,300 seat capacity, 61 units of market-rate apartment housing at the Woodward Garden Apartments and a 302-space parking garage.

woowdward gardens

woodward gardens
6. David Whitney Building

When the $82-million renovation of the David Whitney Building at Woodward Avenue and Grand Circus Park is completed in July 2014, the 19-story building will house the city’s first boutique hotel, Aloft, along with restaurants, apartments and a connection to the People Mover. The 1915 building, named for local lumber baron David Whitney Jr., has been empty since 2000.

david whitney building

david whitney
7. Belle Isle

After more than a year of contentious debate on Detroit’s city council, Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and Governor Rick Snyder inked a deal to lease Belle Isle, the city’s island park, to the state of Michigan for $1. The move is expected to save Detroit as much as $6 million in maintenance annually. The state’s Department of Natural Resources says it will apply for tens of million dollars in grants to upgrade facilities and infrastructure around the aging park.

belle isle

belle isle after
8. Hudson’s Site

The iconic downtown Hudson’s department store was reduced to rubble 15 years ago. While no concrete plans have been announced, New York City’s SHoP and Detroit’s Hamilton Anderson Associates will collaborate on a design to finally replace the building, Rock Ventures announced Monday. This summer, the real estate company held a juried competition to redesign the still-empty space on Woodward Ave. The winner of the public vote was “Hudson’s Quarter,” designed by Emilie M. Rottman and James G. Ramil of Washington, D.C. The design’s exterior includes an image of the original department store façade. The development would host retail, a gym, apartments and condos, a performance space and an outdoor arts and music alley. While it’s just an idea, this kind of mixed-use development could anchor the area between Campus Martius and Grand Circus Park, and bring life back to one of Detroit’s most memorable historic sites.

hudsons detroit lot

hudsons public vote winner
9. Capitol Park

After the park itself was completely redone in 2009, a full-scale revitalization of several of the neighborhood’s major historic buildings is on the way. The Capitol Park, Farwell, Griswold, United Way and David Stott buildings are all poised to become new apartments and offices, many with first-floor retail.

capitol park detroit

capitol park after
10. Monroe Block

Schostak Bros & Co., which renovated the Lofts at Merchants Row downtown, plans to build the first new major office building in Detroit since 2005. The 16-story office building at Monroe Block, costing $111 million, will include first-floor retail and a parking deck.

monroe block before

monroe block rendering
11. Link Detroit

This greenway extension will lengthen Detroit’s popular Dequindre Cut greenway, linking it to the Midtown Loop greenway and a trail in neighboring Hamtramck; plus fix deteriorating bridges and improve street appearances in Eastern Market. The project construction has already started, thanks in part to a $10 million federal grant.

riverwalk before

dequindre cut detroit
12. M-1 Rail

After a false start in 2011, Detroit’s planned downtown streetcar line is cruising toward new construction. The 3.3 mile rail line is supposed to be only the first phase of a system that will eventually connect Detroit to northern suburbs like Ferndale, Royal Oak and Pontiac along Woodward Ave. Construction is expected to start soon.

woodward avenue detroit

detroit 2













13. Rivertown

Coming to the Detroit River: 500 residential units and retail space, thanks to a $55 million development proposed by McCormack Baron Salazar Development Inc. of St. Louis. The first phase will add 300,000 square feet of new construction to Detroit’s East Riverfront. The company is also expected to break ground on another $20 million mixed-use development at John R Street and Palmer Avenue in Midtown.

detroit riverfront warehouse

woodward avenue detroit
14. Cadillac Square

The long-term vision for this historic plaza, as envisioned by Rock Ventures, includes transforming the area into a Market Square with food kiosks, an outdoor bar and a permanent market hall. The square would be lined with cafes and outdoor dining spaces, and Detroit’s historic Four Civic Virtues sculptures would be restored to all their original glory.

cadillac square before

cadillac square after
15. Renaissance City Apartments

Village Green bought the former Millender Center Apartments in April and is set to finish full renovations of the building (located directly across from the Renaissance Center) in the summer of next year. The newly renamed Renaissance City Apartments are getting interior makeovers, as is the outdoor Sky Park, which will provide a movie wall, fire pit and grilling stations to residents.

millender center before

millender center after

What will Detroit look like in 50 years? After thousands of conversations, in January a team appointed by Mayor Dave Bing unveiled the city’s framework for change, recovery and innovation. While it’s not a master plan, Detroit Future City is intended to be a collective resource that will influence the city’s evolution and development.

Under its rubric, empty land becomes fertile ground for urban farms. The city leads in green and blue infrastructure, improving connectivity through land and water resources. Neighborhoods reclaim their identities and forge new success. This is a vision for Detroit in 2063 — will it become reality?

16. Live/Make Districts

woodward avenue detroit

Ex-warehouses and factories like the Packard Plant could be transformed into live/work industrial spaces for entrepreneurs and makers. Think entire hackerspace neighborhoods zoned for artisans and creatives to live where they create.

packard plant before

One example already in Detroit is Corktown’s Ponyride:

17. Urban Green Neighborhoods

green neighborhoods

Detroit’s thriving pockets are islands amid huge swaths of vacant land. The city could repurpose this land into green neighborhoods. Currently blighted neighborhoods would become homes to carbon forests, blue infrastructure projects and urban farms and markets — allowing residents to possibly live, work and find healthy food without leaving their blocks. Closer to downtown, green mixed-use neighborhoods (with Lafayette Park serving as an example) would be connected to the city center via new greenways.

detroit abandoned

Lafayette Park, which has both skyscrapers and co-op townhomes, is a stunning example of green neighborhood creation — and the buildings designed by renowned architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe still feel modern 50 years later:

lafayette park detroit
18. Traditional Neighborhood Renewal:

Not every neighborhood in future Detroit will be home to an urban farm or tech startup. The city’s currently more populated neighborhoods will be renewed, not bulldozed. Schools will become neighborhood hubs, offering community learning centers, recreation and meeting areas. City services will be improved — meaning more code enforcement against graffiti, derelict landlords and litter, working streetlights and reliable bus service. These new neighborhoods will also have start-up retail opportunities for entrepreneurs. The most important priority will be increasing safety and police response times.

detroit neighborhood rundown

Schools in the future Detroit could look a lot like the Detroit School of Arts.

detroit school


Wayne State approves $60M retail-residential complex for Midtown

November 23, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A $60 million, nine-story apartment, retail, hotel and conference center is planned to be erected soon in the heart of Midtown. The Wayne State University Board of Governors on Friday approved a memorandum of understanding and a long-term lease with Broder & Sachse Real Estate Services to develop a 1.5-acre site at the northeast corner of Cass and Canfield. Renderings of the project are shown here. (Broder & Sachse)

Detroit— A $60 million apartment, retail, hotel and conference center is slated for Midtown following approval Friday by the Wayne State University Board of Governors.

The board approved a memorandum of understanding and long-term lease with Broder & Sachse Real Estate Services, which will develop the 1.5-acre site at Cass and Canfield that is now a parking lot.

The project is proposed to include 248 apartments, 19,000 square feet of retail space, a hotel with up to 120 rooms and a conference center with capacity for 300 people.

“In addition to providing much-needed housing and hotel and conference facilities, this project will enhance the connection between our main campus and our medical campus, as well as further promote Midtown as a walkable and bikeable neighborhood,” said WSU President M. Roy Wilson. “Wayne State remains committed to being a leader and catalyst for economic growth in Detroit.”

Construction is expected to start late next fall, with completion by 2016.

The complex is expected to be near the car-sharing service Zipcar and a proposed M-1 light rail stop.
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Detroit Development Projects, Real Estate Investments Are Booming In 2013

June 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Gov. Rick Snyder News Conference To Assess The Detroit Financial Review Team Report

Midtown has arguably become Detroit’s most successful — and talked about — district for new commercial and real estate ventures. Mixed-use projects like The Auburn apartments and Willys Overland Lofts are filling their ground floors with new retail ventures, and new construction is ramping up at sites like the former Stone Pool Park, slated to become an apartment complex.

In Detroit’s downtown, hotels like the Milner and residential buildings are getting major upgrades. Meanwhile, Quicken Loans honcho Dan Gilbert seems as eager as ever to pick up, develop and promote commerce at properties in the suddenly resurgent city core.

Austin Black, President of the City Living Detroit real estate brokerage, told The Huffington Post that residential demand in downtown and Midtown has increased steadily over the last three years. He calls the opening of the Whole Foods grocery store in Midtown, in particular, “a game changer” that has encouraged people to start businesses and relocate downtown.

“Everything’s starting to come together really nicely,” he said. “It’s been a lot of years of hard work. Particularly if you look at the work Sue Mosey has done over the last twenty-five years to get Midtown to the point where we’re building that critical mass, building the demand to live, work, open a business in the neighborhood.”

An emerging consequence of this development, however, seems to be the displacement of long-time residents. In both downtown and the Midtown area, building owners have made headlines recently for handing out eviction notices to tenants after reassessing the value of their properties.

Investment is also taking place in Detroit’s New Center district. Henry Ford Health Systems is currently pursuing a $500 million mixed-use project on the edge of Midtown and Shelborne Development is rehabbing apartments all over the district.

Plans for M-1 Rail and a rumored new entertainment district hint that this momentum isn’t going away anytime soon. Explore 28 notable development projects happening in the D right now.


Detroit 2025: After the Recession, a City Reimagined

October 9, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

detroit-landscapeThe year is 2025. Detroit, the poster child of the Great Recession, is emerging as a model of urban life. The transformation could be called a miracle but for the fact that the change was wrought by the very things that first made Detroit great: innovation, industriousness, and a will to win against all odds.

The metamorphosis grew from desperation. In 2008, two of the Big Three carmakers were swirling toward the sinkhole of bankruptcy. The city’s population, which peaked at 1.85 million during the post—World War II auto boom, was approaching 700,000. Tracts of wilderness, abandoned factories, and empty houses sparked a perverse fascination with Detroit’s ruins. “This whole area really bottomed out,” William Clay “Bill” Ford Jr., Ford’s chairman and a great-grandson of the automotive company’s founder, says.

But then something powerful and unexpected happened: Visionaries and ordinary citizens, tired of living in a crumbling city, decided to quit waiting for someone to fix it. “I think there was a realization by everybody in this region, not just in Detroit, that the way we were doing things was a broken model,” Ford says. “At Ford we had to completely reinvent ourselves.”

The reinvention was aided by the group that Ford’s great-grandfather had resisted so viciously, the United Auto Workers (UAW). “When things were the bleakest,” Ford says, “UAW president Ron Gettelfinger and the union took concessions that allowed Ford to survive and ultimately thrive. Ron said to me, ‘Look, we’ve got to get out of this together.’ If you can take entrenched institutions like the auto companies and the UAW and completely redefine the relationship, then it should be possible for the city of Detroit to do it too.”

That was Bill Ford’s epiphany; other Detroiters had their own. People with foresight and guts began investing in the city again. Detroit natives who had fled their broken hometown trickled back, joined by pioneering young people who saw past the city’s blight. Instead, they saw available buildings, cheap rents, and a welcome mat for innovators. They saw an iron work ethic and fierce energy. And in a landscape ravaged by depopulation and decay, some bright people saw a blank canvas on which to paint a new urban model.

DNR expects a million visitors a year to Detroit riverfront discovery center

May 22, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 


Artists rendering of the Milliken State Park Interpretive Center to be located in the historic Globe Building on Detroit’s east riverfront. / Detroit Economic Development Corp.

By John Gallagher

Detroit Free Press Business Writer

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said this morning it anticipates as many as a million visitors a year coming to its planned discovery center to be built in the historic Globe Building on Detroit’s east riverfront.

Features will include a 60-foot climbing wall, an archery range, simulator rides demonstrating kayaking and other water sports, and classrooms to teach schoolchildren and other visitors outdoor safety as well as the science of natural resources and wetlands.

The details were revealed at this morning’s meeting of the city’s Economic Development Corp., a quasi-public board that holds title to the Globe building for the city.

Built in stages from the late 19th Century, the Globe was one of the city’s most important industrial buildings in the pre-automotive era. A young Henry Ford worked there before starting his car company, and the building, which served as a dry dock, is a link to the city’s past as a center of shipping. It has been mostly vacant for decades.

Under a deal approved this morning, the EDC will sell the building to local developer Roxbury Group for a dollar. Roxbury will then develop it to DNR’s specs with the help of a $11 million financing from the state’s Natural Resources Trust Fund. DNR will eventually purchase the building when it’s ready in fall 2013 for a total project cost of $12.8 million.

About half of the historic building will come down, with the rest preserved and renovated for the DNR space, which is adjacent to the William Milliken State Park, as well as the Detroit RiverWalk.

“We envision that we could easily on the low side see a million visitors every year,” Vicki Anthes, chief of the DNR’s planning section, told the EDC board this morning.

EDC board member Conrad Mallet called the DNR plans a “fantastic opportunity” and a “great use of that building.”

The DNR had initially planned a much smaller space inside the Globe Building, but scaled up the plans to about 50,000 square feet of “outdoor adventure” exhibits, activities, and classrooms, as well as office space for about 20 DNR staffers now based in Southfield.

“It was part of the vision for Milliken (state park) right from the get-go,” Anthes said. “We had our eye on the Globe Building.”

She added, “This has evolved to be a grander and really a more holistic approach to what we want our visitors to experience. We believe this is the right thing for us to do here.”

Contact John Gallagher: 313-222-5173 or

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