Wanted in the D: 4K Residents/15K Workers/125 Retailers by 2020

By R.J. King

Eager to capitalize on the rejuvenation of the central business district, the Downtown Detroit Partnership has set a goal of drawing 4,000 more residents, 15,000 more office workers, and 125 more retailers by 2020. Meeting the objective will require a mixture of new construction and redevelopment projects.

As it stands, downtown Detroit has 6,000 residents, 85,000 office workers, and 275 retailers. “There’s so much happening downtown with the M-1 Rail line (under construction), the expanding entertainment district, and the building renovations,” says Eric Wilson, planning and development director at the Downtown Detroit Partnership.

During a stakeholder’s meeting on Tuesday at the Compuware Building, Wilson and his colleagues offered a progress report of development activity, including new lofts, hotel projects, office renovations, entertainment additions, and upcoming restaurants.

The highlights include:

— A $3.5-million project to open Cobo Arena to the riverfront, to be called Cobo Square, is scheduled to be completed next June. That’s on top of nearly $300 million in improvements at Cobo Center, which will be completed in time for the 2015 North American International Auto Show in January.

— M-1 Rail is on schedule to begin operations in late 2016, and will offer 20 stations along Woodward Avenue, stretching from Jefferson Avenue to West Grand Boulevard. The $140-million streetcar system will begin laying tracks in early September. In turn, I-75 will be closed at Woodward on Sept. 12 to remove half of the overpass in preparation for the system.  

— A $30-million renovation of the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center is on schedule to be completed by the end of the year, while Renaissance City Apartments (formerly Millender Center) will add an outdoor Sky Park, or landscaped plaza, as well as an interior Sky Club.

— Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan plans to complete a $3-million renovation of the Detroit Cornice and Slate Co. building by the end of the year. In turn, 1001 Woodward, which was recently renovated, will add a Freshies pizza and deli in the main lobby.

— DTE Energy is renovating the former Salvation Army building, located on Bagley across from its headquarters, and will convert the 32,000-square-foot structure into an office building called Navitas (energy in Latin). The utility also is working to add a pocket park on a triangular piece of property bounded by Grand River Avenue, First Street, and Plaza Drive (across Grand River from the GAR Building).

— The Albert, named after famed Detroit architect Albert Kahn, will open in October in Capitol Park (formerly Griswold Building) and offer 127 apartments and 14,000 square feet of retail space.

— The David Whitney Building, which has changed its address from 1553 Woodward to 1 Park Avenue, is on pace to reopen later this year following an $82 million renovation that will include a 135-room Aloft hotel, 105 apartments, and commercial space.

— A new apartment project, to be called Statler City Apartments, will be built on the site of the former Statler Hotel at Bagley and Park and include 250 apartments, an indoor pool, ground floor retail spaces, and two levels of underground parking. The project will break ground next year and open in late 2016. Village Green in Farmington Hills is the developer. The company owns the neighboring Detroit City Apartments (formerly Washington Square).

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