On Thursday, CoreNet professionals gathered to lunch, learn and relax on the Madison building’s rooftop on a beautiful, sunny, late summer day. The event had a large group of attendees who all enjoyed the views of Comerica Park, Grand Circus Park, the Gem Theatre, Ford Field and other views of downtown Detroit.
It’s hard to believe just a couple short years ago the “historic” Madison building was in ruins, dilapidated, deteriorating and destined for the wrecking ball. Yet, today it is a sleek, modern, loft-like facility with open space, exposed ceilings, cutting edge working space, a state-of-the-art auditorium and the aforementioned party rooftop deck that is available for private parties and events. The vision of Dan Gilbert is on full display with the completion and daily operations of the Madison building.
After some good networking and a delicious box lunch, attendees were offered a tour of the Madison Building’s interior, taking in the open work spaces, brick walls, exposed ceiling and girders, concrete floors and the cool vibe that emanated from the interior space of the building. This is certainly some space and “the place” to let one’s creative juices spill over. Following the tour, the group was ready to learn more about some of the more recent steps taken towards reinventing the city.
Jacob Cohen introduced himself as the Vice President of Detroit Venture Partners (DVP). This venture partner group is behind financing all of the startups who have come through the doors of the Madison Building and all those presently there. These venture capitalists, including Dan Gilbert, Magic Johnson, Josh Linkner and Brian Hermelin, provide seed money to early startups in the high tech, internet, web, mobile device markets ranging from $250,000 up to $750,000. If the startups show promise, they can receive up to $3 Million before the end of their relationship with DVP. While DVP appears to have no “Groupons” to their credit as of yet, it shouldn’t be too long before they have a startup that breaks out and attains such status. After all, DVP will only be 2 years old this November.
More conversation was spent on the rise of the city of Detroit. While no efforts were taken to brush aside the city’s fundamental problems, the fact remains Detroit has made huge strides in creating an environment that is more “livable” for the young professionals who increasingly see city living as a viable alternative to standard suburban life. Cohen, who has lived downtown for about 1 ½ years, commented that while he was able to negotiate $500/ month less rent on his prior apartment, he is currently unable to help his friends find anyplace to live downtown. While Corktown was solely defined by Slows BBQ just last year, now there are many more new businesses taking hold in one of Detroit’s most historic neighborhoods. Most of the pieces of interesting urban life seem to be in place in Detroit, including: sports, culture, architecture, dining, waterfront, outdoor farmers market, music, nightlife and other pieces of the urban mosaic are all presently available in the city, with more businesses and interesting venues sprouting up all the time.
Cohen commented that the younger generation has no memory of what Detroit has been, what it’s been through and what it should have been. With so many past generations having so much scar tissue from the city’s long and painful past, this is indeed a blessing. No better way to create than to wipe the slate clean and just begin with the end in mind. For that reason alone, it appears this may be the city’s first real and best chance to “get it right”. Most importantly, Cohen indicated the city is attractive to young professionals and entrepreneurs because it is much easier to get noticed here than in New York, Chicago or LA. One can “do” here easier than almost anywhere else. Not much argument that it’s always better to be a “Big Fish” in a small pond than vice-versa.
While the experiment of Detroit’s vibe and attractiveness is relatively new, it will be interesting to see if the momentum continues to grow as it has in the past year or two. For once more people are betting on the city’s survival and relevance. Let’s hope they’re right.
ROBERT E. MATTLER, Associate Broker, Attorney and LEED AP BD+C, is Director of Green Brokerage at Armada Real Estate Services in West Bloomfield, Michigan. He speaks and writes about emerging green real estate issues in Michigan and elsewhere. For more information, contact Bob at Armada Real Estate (248) 855-1221; or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org