“Everything you’ve heard about Detroit is true” screams the headline in the most recent ad from the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Okay, it’s true: We filed for bankruptcy. It’s true: We’ve got some serious financial challenges.
But here’s what else is true about Detroit …
True: More than $11 billion in new private economic investment and development in the past two years that’s helped transform downtown’s buildings, businesses, and riverfront into a lively and appealing urban center.
True: The $279 million transformation of Cobo Center into a state-of-the-art meeting and convention facility, with more than 4,500 nearby hotel rooms.
True: The construction of a new $140 million downtown light rail system that will connect residents and visitors to restaurants, shopping, sporting venues, and cultural activities along a three-mile span.
True: A completely remodeled, state-of-the-art airport that handles 1,200 flights every day to and from 150 destinations on four continents.
True: A rich array of cultural attractions, professional sports teams, outdoor activities, and one of the largest theater districts in the U.S., with over 13,000 seats in just a two-block radius.
True: A true two-nation destination, with the charms of Ontario, Canada just 10 minutes away by bridge or tunnel.
As Stephen Colbert once said, “I don’t know whether it’s a new thing, but it’s certainly a current thing, in that it doesn’t seem to matter what facts are. It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that’s not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything.”
With that in mind the DMCVB also created tools for its planners that include a Detroit Perceptions and Realities document. Here are some the perceptions and the realities.
Perception: Downtown Detroit is unsafe
A coordinated vigilance is present downtown and response times are low. For added assurance and responsiveness, the police emergency department has recently secured 100 new cars and 23 EMS units. Downtown is also blanketed with security provided by the pooled resources of Project Lighthouse, a public-private partnership involving Homeland Security, the Coast Guard, FBI, Customs and Border Patrol, state, county and city police departments, and all private security companies.
Perception: Job opportunities in downtown Detroit are scarce
Reality: Thousands of jobs are in Detroit and millions are being invested in new business
Over the past few years, businesses have moved downtown and more are considering relocating here. Major companies are also bringing their employees downtown, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Compuware, DTE Energy, GalaxE, General Motors, Quicken Loans and Strategic Staffing Solutions. In total, more than 7,000 jobs and $120 million in investment have come into Detroit since 2010, according to the mayor’s office.
Reality: Downtown Detroit has a 97 percent occupancy rate
Downtown Detroit has experienced a 59-percent increase in the number of college-educated residents under the age of 35, nearly 30 percent more than two-thirds of the nation’s 51 largest cities. Artists, designers, entrepreneurs and other young professionals are taking advantage of low real estate prices and growing career opportunities in the area. According to a recent survey by D:hive, (an organization that recruits and tracks innovators in the city), downtown Detroit has a 99 percent occupancy rate.
Perception: Downtown Detroit is consumed by abandoned buildings and burnt out neighborhoods
Reality: Detroit is experiencing one of the country’s largest urban redevelopments
Downtown Detroit is full of new businesses that are finding homes in historic neighborhoods and old buildings. Young urban professionals and empty nesters flocking to downtown Detroit are quickly inhabiting new lofts and condominiums. Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans and Rock Ventures, has also spent roughly $1 billion to purchase vacant buildings turning them into modern, vibrant, art-filled and active office spaces filled with some of the nation’s most creative and talented individuals.
Perception: The city of Detroit’s bankruptcy will affect Cobo Center
Reality: The bankruptcy has no impact on Cobo Center
Cobo Center and its operation are completely separate from city government, and have been since a state-backed regional authority was given control in 2009. Since that time, the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority has SMG to manage day-to-day business, revolutionized food service, balanced the books, and embarked on a $279-million renovation.
Perception: Detroit does not have the facilities or the resources to host large conventions
Reality: Detroit rivals most Midwest cities in terms of facilities and resources for hosting large conventions
Cobo Center is more than halfway through a $279-million renovation, which is transforming the facility into a world-class, modern-day meeting and convention center. Throughout the renovation, Cobo has been open for business, successfully hosting significant events including the North American International Auto Show. Recently a 367-room, eight-suite Crown Plaza Ponchartrain Hotel opened in the city, adding to an inventory of more than 4,000 luxury hotel rooms already located downtown.
In 2014, Michigan’s first Aloft hotel opens, and the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center undergoes a complete renovation. As statement to Detroit’s status as a major meeting destination, the city was chosen to host meetings for ASAE in 2015 and AA in 2020, among many others.
Perception: It’s difficult to get around downtown Detroit
Reality: The downtown Detroit core is easily accessible and simple to navigate
The Detroit People Mover is one of the few light-rail public transit systems operating in the US. The 2.9-mile track serves 13 stations downtown, making it easy and economical to move around. The city is also breaking ground on a $137-million, 3.3-mile Woodward light rail system in the fall of 2013. This transit option is expected to include 11 stations, with connections to Campus Martius, Comerica Park, the Detroit Medical Center area and Wayne State University.
So there you have it … just the facts, Jack.