“There’s an energy downtown that I haven’t seen in years,” says Doug Seabolt, president of In-House Realty, the real estate partner of Quicken Loans. Seabolt stands outside his 14th-floor office in the Chase Tower, acquired by Gilbert in April 2011. A little over six months later, more than 1,500 of Gilbert’s employees filed into the renovated and far more colorful office space that’s now home to the Quicken Loans headquarters. They joined 1,700 colleagues who had already moved across a small park into the concave-shaped Compuware World Headquarters building. An additional 1,000 employees have moved into the First National Building and the M@dison, other properties that Gilbert purchased in the past two years.
“More and more people, investors and businesses are joining the initiative to build something special here,” Gilbert says.
Daniel J. Loepp, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, is another native Detroiter who moved his company from the suburbs to downtown. BCBSM now occupies almost 20 percent of the office space in the cylindrical glass towers of the GM Renaissance Center.
“We’re constantly checking with our employees to see where their heads are at, and the approval rating of those that came downtown is 94 percent,” Loepp says.
Coming off the success of Live Midtown, Loepp, along with Gilbert and other downtown employers, has also helped implement a similar program, called Live Downtown. The program is funded with more than $5 million in cash incentives offered to workers who choose to live downtown. This includes $20,000 toward the purchase of a new home and up to $3,500 for a new rental. So far, more than 50 BCBSM employees have signed on.
“One of our guys that works in human resources lives right around the corner from Comerica Park, rides his bike to work every day and loves it,” Loepp says.
Close to the GM Renaissance Center is the home of the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority’s new port, which made its debut in summer 2011. The state-of-the-art terminal now hosts passengers who stop for a day in Detroit on their way to the dunes of Saugatuck and the Victorian-era charms of Mackinac Island. There are hopes in the future to offer ferry service across the ?narrow waterway to Windsor, Ontario, especially with the surge of Canadian residents already driving across the Ambassador Bridge or through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel every day to work or play in Detroit.
The Port Authority is located on the Detroit RiverWalk, a paved trail that lines the waterfront, ideally suited for joggers and bikers. More than three miles of waterfront have already been beautified to create the trail, including the William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor, a collection of ponds, wildflowers and wetland that is Michigan’s first urban state park. An additional mile-long greenway, the aforementioned Dequindre Cut Greenway, leads to the Eastern Market past graffiti-lined concrete walls, some of which the RiverFront Conservancy helped sponsor. On Saturday mornings, it’s common to find people on bikes cruising with their baguettes and fresh produce from the market to a picnic spot along the water.
Drive two miles along the Woodward Avenue corridor from downtown past Comerica Park and the Fox Theatre, and you arrive in Midtown. This has been Mosey’s turf for the past quarter-century, and it has weathered the economic downturn thanks to the presence of Wayne State University, Henry Ford Health ?System, Detroit Medical Center and their expanding campuses.
“We have a lot of stable institutions that are adding students, adding dormitories, adding new facilities and growing jobs,” Mosey says. “This corridor is a separate dynamic than what you find in a lot of other Detroit neighborhoods.”