June 18, 2015


How Detroit is rising from the ashes (Ravender Sembhy, June 16, 2015, IBT)

Investors, convinced that they are buying at the bottom in anticipation that the only way is up, have been snapping up real estate at rock bottom prices. Dan Gilbert, a Detroit born billionaire, has become the poster boy of such investment. Hailed as Detroit's saviour in some quarters, he has pumped $1.7bn into buying up 70 major buildings and has promised to restore several to their former glory.

Quicken Loans, the mortgage firm Gilbert owns, has moved thousands of employees downtown and the tycoon is now encouraging other businesses to follow suit through his "Opportunity Detroit" scheme.

Speaking last week to an audience of entrepreneurs, Gilbert spoke of his vision for the city. "We have to create an environment, a garden for small businesses to grow. It's hard to go to New York and make a splash, and we use that as a sell line. Here you can impact a great American city." [...]

Last week billionaire Richard Branson also got in on the act, travelling to Detroit to celebrate Virgin Atlantic's new route from London. He aims to attract business travellers, pointing to the changing picture of the city.

"Detroit is beginning to boom again and we want to play our part in helping the mayor make this city great again."

Parallel to Gilbert - and sometimes in conjunction with him - trendy cafes and restaurants have been springing up in increasing number as budding entrepreneurs enjoy cheap rents and low start-up and staffing costs.

In the last year alone, 30 restaurants have opened up and Detroit is now home to the highest concentration of designers in the US. There are also 1,300 urban community farms that produce enough fruit and vegetables to supply 20% of the city.

Art is also flourishing. The Heidelberg project, designed to improve peoples' lives through art, is just one of a number of creative initiatives. Murals, graffiti and street art are spearheading Detroit's beautification.

The city is now seen as on its way to gentrification and, ultimately, resurrection.

Posted by at June 18, 2015 11:16 AM

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