When it comes to retail development, there are hot areas like Troy’s Somerset Collection, downtown Birmingham and … Detroit?
Yuuup. It’s true. If you build (Whole Foods), they will come. Nah, just kidding. But it’s that kind of development – along with thousands of new office workers, major investments in “Eds and Meds” and a sense that people actually CARE about the city that is influencing significant storefronts to show their faces around here.
Over the past couple weeks, I had an opportunity to interview a dozen or so retailers about their expansion plans. And more than a few mentioned Detroit. On their own. Without under-the-table bribes. Yes! It’s true.
Places that sell things, whether it is grocery items, clothing, accessories or more, actually like doing so in Detroit. Go figure.
Anyway, here’s the major news in my point of view. These retailers see Detroit as having a vision. They like the cut of its jib. They like areas like Midtown, the Cass Corridor, Brush, Jefferson and other streets. They are ga-ga for the downtown and other business districts. Much like Sally Fields once gushed, they like us. They really like us.
“There’s some diamonds in the rough right now – like Midtown,” said Jim Stokas of Stokas Bieri Real Estate, who this week helped host the International Council of Shopping Centers’ annual “Big Idea” conference in Dearborn. (For those not forced to know this, the ICSC is the big trade organization that has shopping centers, open-air malls and the like among its membership.)
“You look at the amount of employees in Midtown right now – there’s thousands with Wayne State University, two medical centers and the state of Michigan. The entities that are there are employment generators. They’re committed to that area, its development and its security. And that’s only increasing,” Stokas told me.
OK – get it out of your system now. Everyone who knows anything about Detroit, particularly downtown and Midtown, knew it was worth investing in five to 10 years ago. Yes, I know that the “urban pioneers” (gag, choke…I hate that phrase) have been down there, fighting the good fight for some time now.
But now the rest of the world has come out of their slumber and are joining the awesome folks who have struggled for so long without neighbors. To have a Whole Foods, Meijer, Marshalls (the family-orientated part of the TJX Companies), Hungry Howie’s and 7-Eleven in the heart of the city is what makes said organ pump just a little bit better in my fine opinion.
Speaking of 7-Eleven, let me introduce you to my new friend, Michael Anderer, a senior real-estate rep for the Dallas-based chain in Michigan. He’s loving on the Woodward corridor, Randolph, Cass and Brush to take on some of his company’s convenience stores. I’ve seen the pictures of the 7-Eleven urban stores, and they’re mighty pretty. I’d like me one of those in the area.
But wait – it’s not one. It’s six. And many more to come! Anderer said he is hanging with the good people at the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and Sue Mosey, president of Midtown Detroit Inc., to find out what opportunities there are in the city.
That’s right…again. Opportunities. OPP-or-TUNITIES. In Detroit.
“The focus for us is to be in the key business areas, like the central parts of Detroit – places like Campus, Martius, New Center and Midtown,” Anderer said. “That allows us to capitalize on not only the worker populations growing but also be the fill-in grocery provider for those folks moving down there. … We think they’re underserved as far as the quick-service food and on-the-go sandwich places, and we’d like to fill in those gaps.
“It’s a really good fit to help spur development down there,” Anderer added.
Pause for dramatic effect…Good Lord. Did you read that right? Someone wants to build a store in Detroit and help spur further development.
As an aside, I was talking to someone about the Somerset Collection’s CityLoft and its Downtown Detroit Days. He noted that these kind of events along with these kinds of developments have people talking – maybe they too could venture across 8 Mile and open another one of their stores in Detroit. Maybe. Maybe they could.
That, my Dear Readers, is a tidal change. That is progress.
So get ready, you current Detroit store owners. Competition is coming. And that’s pretty wonderful.