One year in, Live Downtown program helping transform Detroit

One year in, Live Downtown program helping transform Detroit

Teams compete Wednesday in the Field Day challenge as part of the Live Downtown Games.

A year ago today, I joined with the leaders of four other companies to announce Live Downtown, a program to help strengthen Detroit by offering financial incentives to employees to live in the central city. The five original Live Downtown companies are celebrating all this week with the inaugural Live Downtown Games, and indeed we think we have much to celebrate.

Part of the Downtown Detroit Partnership’s Talent Attraction and Retention Program, Live Downtown is a five-year initiative that provides cash incentives to employees of Blue Cross, Quicken Loans, Compuware, Strategic Staffing Solutions and DTE Energy who choose to move to downtown Detroit or renew a lease there and live where they work and play.

The program covers six neighborhoods: downtown, Corktown, Eastern Market, Lafayette Park, Midtown and Woodbridge.

The results are in

Tricia Keith, BCBSM’s vice president, Corporate Secretary and Services, competes with Quicken Loans CEO Bill Emerson during the executive bungee challenge.

Since announcing the program July 25, 2011, the five core Live Downtown companies have welcomed 187 new residents to Detroit. Another 54 employees have been pre-approved for incentives and were looking for homes, while 45 employees just entered the program. That’s 286 new residents moved in or in the pipeline and more than $800,000 of employer incentives provided to date.

Eighty-eight percent of the new-resident and new-unit profiles were rentals, with 12 percent of the homes purchased. Downtown, Midtown and Lafayette Park were the primary neighborhoods where program participants moved. Nearly three quarters of them — 72 percent — moved to the city from the suburbs, while 23 percent moved from other neighborhoods within the city and 5 percent moved from outside of Michigan.

Beyond numbers

These numbers are significantly increasing the occupancy rates of residential real estate in the target neighborhoods — in some neighborhoods, it’s actually difficult to find available living quarters — and helping to build a 24-hour critical mass that is helping to lure new retailers and restaurants. We’re also seeing high satisfaction rates of participants in the program who are moving downtown as well as positive local, national and international media on the program.

The BCBSM team at the Games opening ceremonies.

All of this, including the ongoing Live Downtown Games this week, can only help strengthen Detroit’s image as a fun and innovative place to live, work and play. Already, we’re seeing the market respond with heightened interest in developing new residential properties based on the program’s success and the five-year employer commitments.

Importantly, we’ve also welcomed a sixth company to the Live Downtown fold — Marketing Associates, a technology-enabled marketing services company that moved to Detroit from Bloomfield Hills five years ago and today has around 150 employees working in its office near Campus Martius.

We hope the Live Downtown Games inspire other employers to join us.

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

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