Detroit: A City on the Rise: Dan Gilbert

Mr. Dan Gilbert, CEO of Quicken Loans

BY CHRIS ZADOROZNY, Staff Columnist

This week we will switch the topic from the growing entertainment industry in Detroit and focus in on one man and what he is doing to reinvigorate a city that needs help.  In this piece, we will talk about what he has done for the city, his background, and his plans for the future.

Dan Gilbert is the current founder and chairman of Quicken Loans, an online mortgage company based in the Compuware Building, downtown in the heart of the city.  He was born in the city itself and earned his bachelor’s from Michigan State University as well as a Juris Doctor (first professional doctorate) from Wayne State University Law School.  He is also a member of the Michigan State Bar Association.

He founded Rock Financial in 1985 and it grew into one of the largest independent mortgage lenders in the country.  In 2000, Intuit Inc. bought out Rock Financial and turned it into Quicken Loans.  Gilbert bought the company back along with a group of private investors in 2002 from Intuit Inc. and its affiliated companies and has since remained with the company.  He currently is the Chairman.

When becoming CEO, he became the majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team in 2005.  He still embraces the team to this day even during the current NBA lockout.  He also owns the Lake Erie Monsters, a professional hockey team in the American Hockey League, one step below the NHL level. They are the farm team of the Colorado Avalanche.

Gilbert knows how to make money and realized that Detroit can be a place for people to live, work, and play.  In August of 2010, he moved 1,700 of his workers in Quicken Loans from Livonia to Detroit at the Compuware Building.  Five months later, he announced the purchase of the Madison Theatre Building, directly next to the Broderick Tower in Grand Circus Park. This past April he also purchased the Chase Tower, one block south of the Compuware Building, and Two Detroit Center, a parking structure two blocks away.

This past September he finished his money spending with the purchases of the Dime Building, three blocks south of the Compuware Building, and the First National Building, one block south.  He also owns rights to the old Hudson’s Building site, right next door to the Compuware Building.  Once everyone moves into the Chase Tower and Madison Theatre Building, Quicken Loans will employ over 4,000 workers in Downtown Detroit.

The Compuware Building in Downtown Detroit

The building he resides in currently is the Compuware Building.  It was built-in 2000 and finished in 2003.  It’s a mix of office space, restaurant, and retail.  Restaurants include; Hard Rock Café, Texas de Brazil (Steakhouse), and a Jimmy Johns, to name a few. The Compuware Building sits in the heart of Downtown Detroit at Campus Martius Park, and it and will be key to the revitalization of Detroit as more and more companies move downtown.

In fact, two companies just moved into the Madison Theatre Building in the past week.  Skidmore Studio, a graphic design company, and Detroit Labs, a technology firm that creates applications for the iPhone, iPad, and Android moved in this past week.

Skidmore moved from Royal Oak, while Detroit Labs moved from the Compuware Building.  Detroit Labs was able to move from the Compuware Building because of Detroit Venture Partners, a venture capitalist firm founded by Gilbert to help early stage technology companies in the city.  It currently has only 15 employees.

Dan Gilbert is one of the best people to help reinvigorate the city of Detroit and he has done so already with the moving of his employees, purchasing buildings to bring tenants in and looking toward the future with the old Hudson’s site. Because he owns development rights on the site of the old Hudson’s Building, he is looking to seek a tax extension from the city.  The current tax breaks run until 2017 and with the possibility of extending the tax breaks for another 15 years, it could mean something big, both for the city’s business district and quite possibly the skyline.

The Chase Tower in Campus Martius Park

The old J.L. Hudson’s Building was built-in 1911 and continued to grow towards the finished product presented in 1946.  It was the tallest department/retail building in the world, and the second largest department store building (in rooms) in the United States, second only to Macy’s in New York City.  It also holds the record for the tallest and largest building to have a controlled implosion.  It was imploded on October 24, 1998.  The site is now an empty lot with a parking structure underground, although the parking structure is built so that a building can be built on top with steel girders sticking out of the ground.

There is speculation that an urban Target or H&M store would be built on the site along with other retail, office space, and a residential portion as well.  By seeking a tax extension on this “Renaissance Zone” which is exempt from city taxes, utility taxes, city and county property taxes, and state and business income taxes, it is very likely that Gilbert has a plan to do something with this site.  We do not have any idea what his plans are but the purchase of the other buildings in downtown, he seems to have plans for those as well.

Dan Gilbert is a driving force behind bringing business and retail into the city of Detroit and he’s only 49 years old.  Gilbert is young and will continue to help the city of Detroit and downtown improve.  In next week’s article we will look at one of the oldest and best eateries in the city, and their rivalry.

Check out my article on The Michigan Journal

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