Detroit’s Comeback: M-1 to Z Lot

If you are heading downtown, you will likely see some new architectural developments. Detroit’s been going through some drastic remodeling. The residential, commercial, and industrial development has seemingly sprung out of thin air. The transformation is generating a cultural rebirth that Detroit hasn’t seen in decades.

The Woodward M-1 Rail is due to be up and running in early 2017 and will cover 3.3 miles, have Wi-Fi, and bicycle storage for cyclists. The Hudson Space, which in the 1960s was home to formerly the tallest department store in the world, will no longer remain a stagnant slab of cold cement since it’s demolition in 1998. The main catalyst behind the speedy revival of downtown is Quicken Loans Founder and Chairman Dan Gilbert.

Domeda Duncan, Community Relations Coordinator for the M-1 Rail Project, says that transportation projects like this streetcar are typically publicly funded, but, this project has a unique Private-Public partnership. Matt Cullen is CEO of Rock Adventures at Quicken Loans and Gilbert’s Family of Companies. Duncan explains that in planning this project, Cullen was at the table, and looked to for his resources, connections, and vast knowledge of infrastructure. Duncan gives Cullen full credit for bringing all of the M-1 Rail donors aboard.

Quicken Loans Marketing Strategist Bradley Smith shares that the Hudson Space is likely to be a mosaic of living spaces, offices, and a mall. Smith reveals that Gilbert has been shopping architects for this project and that he recently bid about $15 million for the underground parking lot beneath the Hudson Space, because that portion is still owned by the city of Detroit.

In addition, Brush Park, located between Midtown and the Central Business District is undergoing a significant residential makeover. Part of this development has included a competition between architectural students in regards to urban housing strategies.

The regenerated areas are rich with an omnipresent atmosphere analogous to Silicon Valley meets Google meets Dave and Busters. Perhaps this verifies Detroit Ambassador Christina Collie of Bedrock Management’s claim, that the youth is who this renaissance is intended for.

A must see is the “Z Lot,” housing two 10-story parking structures consisting of walls that have been beautified into remarkable murals by artists from all over the world. Quicken Loans Software Engineer Ken Sobieski explains that Gilbert and his employees are advocates of “space activation.” If they can better something, even if it’s already good, they do it. They strive to make places where people want to come to work and then hang out. It appears to be working well.

Quicken Loans Business Analyst Arturo Osorio III, one of Gilbert’s relocated employees, proclaims that it’s a treasure to be able to live downtown and see structures like the “Z Lot” on the way to work. He appreciates not having to drive to work every day and deal with traffic or a long commute.

To date, Gilbert has created over 8,000 jobs in Detroit. Plus, in the past three summers his companies have provided over a thousand paid internships downtown. This is the first time in many years that there has been a flow of residents into the city rather than out of it.

Some prominent buildings that Gilbert has bought and filled with workers, are the former Compuware Building, First National Building, Chase Tower (The Qube), Chrysler House (Home of dPOP!), and the “techy” Madison Building.

Gilbert’s vision along with related investments in excess of $1.8 billion have quickened Detroit’s pulse and implemented what could become a historical comeback.