All kinds of chatter circulating around town about renovations/activations happening in the downtown area.
The Free Press reported this morning that Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans and Detroit Venture Partners fame has purchased the Dime Building (a beauty designed by Daniel Burnham). The Free Press has not reported too many details in terms of what Gilbert is planning to do with the Dime, but you can bet it probably has something to do with the work Detroit Venture Partners is doing– the venture capital firm that Gilbert, Josh Linkner and Brian Hermelin started last year. In speaking engagements throughout last year, both Gilbert and Linkner have said repeatedly that the plan is to create a Silicon Valley in Detroit by supporting the startup of early to mid-stage tech companies. In doing so, they invest in the companies, house them in the incubation space at the Madison Building (adjacent to the Broderick Tower) and then move the companies to larger space as they begin to grow. It seems reasonable that the space purchased in the Dime Building could support that movement. But, again, nothing has been confirmed. Just throwing out some thoughts here.
Separately, just up the street at the David Whitney Building, there were reports at the end of May that Roxbury Group, a local development firm, is working with another investment firm in Farmington Hills to get an $80m project off the ground that would have it renovated as a boutique hotel. Reports show that other similar hotels in Detroit like the Book-Cadillac and DoubleTree are doing well financially, which makes a strong case for the development of the David Whitney Building.
Investor confidence is up. Buildings are being rehabbed. Businesses are being cultivated. Bring it on, Detroit.
Josh Linker has become a household name in Detroit these days. He is a partner in the venture capital group Detroit Venture Partners (DVP) along with Dan Gilbert and Brian Hermelin. They are looking to make offers on as many as six early stage tech companies in the next thirty days to get the ball rolling on DVP’s efforts in Detroit. Linker will also be a speaker at the Rust Belt to Artist Belt Conference that commences tomorrow and goes until Thursday at the Taubman Center.
Let’s back up.
Linker’s a local guy. He’s been based in Metro-Detroit for a while now having launched another company, ePrize, from the region as well. With DVP, Linker is planning to create a Silicon Valley in Detroit based out of the Madison Building downtown. Businesses will be incubated there and with success and the need for expansion will then be moved to a permanent location within the city.
So, what is an “early stage tech company”? Who are these companies that they are funding? Mostly online tech-related companies– mobile phone applications development, websites that serve a national audience like, say, Monster.com and other companies related to things like social media.
Given that many of these companies are “faceless,” that is, without a storefront or shop where people can congregate, it remains a question how they will effect and contribute to the city’s development. This is where Linkner gets excited, explaining that with the bolster of activity downtown associated with these companies, things like the local bagel shop or coffee joint will be popping up left and right to cater to an increase of demand for goods like that in the area. As it is already, development is no stranger to that part of town. The Broderick Tower, adjacent to DVP’s offices in the Madison Building, is already getting a historical rehab. The retail strip along Woodward not far from the Madison Building also seems a likely candidate for a face lift if DVP brings the activity it predicts, all of which is exciting to watch unfold.
Stay tuned to DVP’s website for approaching news about their activity downtown and don’t forget to check out Josh speaking at this year’s Rust Belt to Artist Belt Conference (tickets are still available!) at the Taubman Center.
Seems there’s all kinds of activity downtown with “coming soon” signs posted outside of soon-to-be businesses and a whole host of renovation projects on the loose. Midtown is still surfing the good waves in to superstardom, but ladies and gentleman, downtown is slowly making ground as the next contender. The Kresge shops seem to be a hotbed: Sinful Sweeties, 7 Sins of Chocolate is open and serving up all kinds of deliciousness; Chez-Zara which has espresso, desserts, pastries and will be open by Memorial Day with a patio on Woodward nonetheless; even a couple of new clothing stores stores are going up. The FYFE Building has a new bar opening inside of it and a smaller bar-b-que joint going in behind it on West Adams. At Campus Martius, the Fountain Cafe awnings are going up, a new wine shop is open and work is being done on the former Au Bon Paine location on the perimeter. Nearby, a trusty Tim Horton’s is going in at the Compuware Building. Finally, it appears as though Bleu, the nightclub that closed up shop in 2009 is getting a new paint job on the exterior which suggests a new attraction may be going in. Go go gadget Detroit. The excitement builds.