Motor City on the Move: Detroit 2.0

Detroit was once the hub of automobile production. Anything from tires to pedals were produced in Detroit. That has completely changed.

The Metro Detroit area still has automobile production, especially with General Motors beefing up their presence in the city, and utilizing the factories still around here. Ford and Chrysler are also finding ways to make their presence known in the city.

Chrysler House was renamed after Dan Gilbert, the new entrepreneur of Detroit, trying to bring companies to the city to reinvent it. It was once called the Dime Building, and people will probably still refer to it as that.

Gilbert is the second-largest private owner of land in the city of Detroit, right behind General Motors. That’s crazy to think about, but in fact, it’s probably a really good thing. Gilbert wants to lure more and more companies to Detroit, especially tech companies.

Chairman and founder of Quicken Loans, Gilbert is looking to use one of the largest mortgage financial companies in the country is based and located in Downtown Detroit as a selling point for other companies.

He is trying to rebrand Detroit as Detroit 2.0, a new Silicon Valley. Woodward Ave. would become “Webward Ave.” He owns the following buildings in Detroit: M@adison Building, First National Building, the Qube (Chase Tower), Chrysler House (Dime Building), a former Bank on Fort St., a few parking garages and a few smaller buildings just south of the Broderick Tower on Woodward Ave.

The M@dison Building is over 100% full and another company just moved into the building recently. Stik.com, a website the uses Facebook to bring a business referral process online, just moved from San Francisco to Detroit. You’re probably asking why someone in the right mind would do that.

It’s pretty simple really. Detroit is becoming the new Silicon Valley. Twitter also has an office in Detroit. Skidmore Studios anchors the building, along with Detroit Labs, Detroit Venture Partners, and Doodle Home.

A construction company, also a part of Gilbert’s companies will be moving downtown very soon. The Lower Woodward Historic District (south of Grand Circus Park up to Campus Martius) has been pretty empty. Many companies moved out, causing empty buildings and not much life.

Gilbert is trying to reinvent the city, bring new and different companies here, move people downtown, bring retail back to the city, and it’s working. He has also purchased the former site of the Hudson’s building and plans on building a mixed use building on the site, like retail, housing, offices. That probably won’t be here for awhile, but it’s definitely in the plans.

There are rumors that he is also going to buy One Woodward Ave. The former Michigan Gas and Electric Company building built by Minoru Yamasaki, the architect of the World Trade Center.

The building has nearly the same design as the World Trade Center, but on a much smaller scale. Gilbert will look to move yet more companies into that building at some point, when it is announced that he has bought it.

Detroit has a chance to comeback even more, and Gilbert is leading the way. Expect to see Detroit 2.0 in the near future. Technology will bring this city back up to the top.

To read the original post that appeared in the third issue of The Michigan Journal, on Tuesday, September 25, 2012, go to www.michiganjournal.org

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