Business, City Transformation, Creativity, News

Unfiltered: Celebrated developer Jessica Goldman Srebnick on digging deep into Detroit’s DNA


Jessica Goldman Srebnick, CEO of Goldman Properties, was gracious enough to expand for me on a comment she made Thursday at the Placemaking Leadership Council inaugural meeting at the Westin Book Cadillac in Detroit.

jessicaAs background, Goldman Srebnick formerly served as a Principal and Managing Partner of Goldman Properties and the Chief Operating Officer for its hospitality division. The 42-year-old businesswoman named CEO of the company September 2012 by her father and business partner, Tony Goldman.

Goldman Properties is a second-generation family business established in 1968 by the legendary Tony Goldman, who passed away September 2012. For more than 40 years, the company has been recognizing the value in depressed urban areas, reconstructing and transforming declining districts into popular, thriving global destinations.

Today, the company is viewed as the go-to real estate company for the revitalization of at-risk urban communities in the United States. Goldman Properties uses a multifaceted approach of innovative cutting edge ideas resulting in new business, new industry, creative commercial spaces, hospitality, public art, international press and economic prosperity.

Goldman Properties has been recognized as the driving force behind SoHo and the Wall Street Financial District in New York City, Center City in downtown Philadelphia, South Beach in Miami, and the emerging Wynwood Arts District in Miami.

–When asked what Detroit needed to do to stand out and be believable as a city on its way up, Goldman Srebnick said to focus on what the city already had to offer. She expounded thusly:

“Every community has their own DNA, just like every person. Everybody’s different. You might have to dig down and discover what that is and then take that and put your own spin on it.

When we went to South Beach, it was all dilapidated but with gorgeous architecture. It has the most art deco architecture within a confined space on the planet. We stripped it down, painted it beautiful colors but we kept the essence of what it is. Then you build industry around that. The same was for Wynwood and New York and for Soho.

There’s things about Detroit that are iconic. It’s the birthplace for a lot of music. It’s the birthplace of an entire industry. People want to feel an attachment to something. People feel an attachment to history – their own history. And I think that will be or should be a very important component in the plans for what Detroit becomes, what the vision of Detroit is. Go back to what you are. Don’t be ashamed of what you are. Don’t hide what you are. Enhance it. Encourage it. Really believe in it. Utilize cars in an artistic, creative way to do fill-ins of empty spaces.

It’s the way that we used graffiti art. That works great where it is. But that wouldn’t work in Philadelphia. It works in certain places. That’s what we do. And it’s worked for us. And you also have to be extremely passionate and let other people into the process to add to the vision. It’s pretty extraordinary what Mr. Gilbert’s doing and he’s absolutely shown huge commitment. The heart’s definitely there. But it also has to be the members of the community that are going to be eating and sleeping there. It’s important that they buy in.

What’s amazing to me about Detroit and Detroiters is they are IN. They’re 100 percent in. You hear it in their voices: ‘This is my city, I don’t care what you say about it. I love this city. I’m here. I’m not leaving.’ That passion is really important. It will happen. It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when. It will.”

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