Commercial real estate report shows that despite government bankruptcy, city of Detroit is alive and well

In the wake of Detroit’s historic Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing last week, the national response has perpetuated an image of a city short on hope. But a new report that flew largely under the radar shows that, on the ground far below the financial storm clouds, the city is being revitalized.

While city government undergoes a painful but necessary restructuring, private enterprise is voting with its money and investing heavily in Detroit.

MLive reported this week that the central business district is comparatively thriving, according to commercial real estate advisory firm Newmark Grubb Knight Frank. The story included this snippet of Newmark’s most recent report:

“Once again, the Detroit CBD is luring tenants from the suburbs into office space downtown. Since 2011, the Detroit CBD has been the dominant submarket in Southeast Michigan with large and small tenants alike migrating downtown. The trend began with Blue Cross Blue Shield, DTE Energy and Quicken Loans in 2011 leasing over a combined 750,000 square feet. Then in 2012, companies such as Title Source, Chrysler, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Metro-West Appraisal Co and Agency 720 leased just under a half million square feet combined.”

MLive notes that advertising agency Campbell Ewald will soon join the ranks by moving its headquarters and 600 employees to space it is renovating at Ford Field. And left unsaid is the fact that Quicken Loans founder and Chairman Dan Gilbert has been on a building-buying spree and is lining up office and retail tenants for many of his properties.

A new passenger light-rail line called M-1 Rail will soon begin construction. And on July 24, the state of Michigan voted for Detroit by authorizing hundreds of millions in bonds to allow for the construction of a new downtown arena and entertainment district.

Clearly, there’s a palpable increase in buzz, investment and economic activity in downtown Detroit and bordering parts of the city in recent years, and frankly I find a host of new reasons to be optimistic every day.

So as the financial storm clouds swirl over city government, it would be helpful for the nation to fly below them and see for itself the very real restoration of one of America’s greatest cities happening at street level. Because it really is remarkable.

Daniel J. Loepp is president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and chairman of the Executive Committee of the Downtown Detroit Partnership.

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