Detroit’s New Center finally attracting attention from investors

A rendering of Reflector, which aims to transform the Cass Avenue viaduct between Midtown and the New Center. | via bioLINIA Midtown Viaducts
A rendering of Reflector, an art project that aims to transform the Cass Avenue viaduct in the New Center. | via bioLINIA Midtown Viaducts

Detroit’s venerable New Center Area is attracting hundreds of millions of dollars from investors eager to cash in on the next wave in the city’s burgeoning resurgence, The Detroit News reports:

The neighborhood north of Wayne State University will see plenty of new life as housing demand outgrows Midtown, downtown and Corktown and moves north along Woodward, investors contend. A study commissioned by the Downtown Detroit Partnership says there is a need for 10,500 additional residential units a year in the greater downtown for the next several years. Further, the M-1 Rail scheduled to open in 2017 will be a game-changer, especially for Woodward, many believe.

“It’s one of the logical places for growth,” said Susan Mosey, executive director of Midtown Detroit Inc., which has shaped much development in the Wayne State University area. “There is just a lot more room in New Center than the (Wayne State) area.”

It’s great news for a neighborhood with boatloads of potential.

The New Center has many things going for it, including central location, attractive, tree-lined streets, stunning architecture, a handful of sizable employers and proximity to downtown, the Woodward Avenue corridor, an Amtrak station and major freeways. But it has never seemed to catch fire for residential development or even as a nightlife hotspot.

For years I remember thinking it had been a bad urban design blunder to build what essentially is like a satellite central business district a few miles from the real downtown, as if the two sapped vitality from one another. Five years ago the New Center Council decided to scrap CityFest, a popular summertime taste-of-Detroit-style festival, to redevelop New Center Park as a place with more regular live music and event offerings and a bar and grill. The idea was to create a “thriving 24-hour neighborhood.”

Though the park is an undeniable upgrade, the New Center has continued to struggle. Many businesses have held on, although the area has not seen many new ones open. The restaurant space in the ground floor of the Fisher Building has seen many different iterations in recent years and just lost its most recent tenant.

But now things seem to be changing.

The Fisher and Albert Kahn buildings have been purchased for $12.2 million and will be redeveloped. The Argonaut Building was refurbished several years ago and now hums with new life. Henry Ford Health System continues to move forward with its own $500 million mixed-use redevelopment. Artists will soon be transforming three dark and daunting viaduct underpasses, thanks to funding from Midtown Detroit Inc., the New Economy Initiative and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The M-1 Rail is coming. I even see surprising signs of life in the nearby North End neighborhood across Woodward.

Is Detroit’s comeback finally spreading from the city center?



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