Mayor Mike Duggan remembers when tall buildings around his new office at Coleman A. Young Municipal Center were filled with empty floors.
It was early in his first year after being elected, and surveying the land left him feeling challenged. Today he’s thankful corporations have begun filling the towers downtown.
“This is a day I wasn’t sure I was ever going to see happen, and it’s remarkable,” the mayor said at an announcement by city hall’s new downtown neighbor.
Ally Financial, Inc. shared news of 1,500 jobs coming to its new Ally Detroit Center, 500 Woodward Ave. It will move workers from its office in Troy, Auburn Hills, Southfield and the Renaissance Center to the new location.
CEO Jeffrey Brown, Detroit Free Press columnist and author Mitch Albom, and Duggan were among participants in a ribbon-cutting and media tour at the site.
“Now I’m surrounded by bankers and I couldn’t be happier about it,” Duggan joked.
Duggan and Brown touted Ally’s history in Michigan during a Detroit-themed celebration of the announcement that included city brands like Faygo soda and Better Made Snack Foods.
Operating as a financial holding company, the automotive services division includes financing and leasing. Ally Bank and Ally Corporate Finance offer private consumer and middle-market business products.
Brown praised Duggan and Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, who helped secure the building for Ally, saying the company honors the community.
“We saw an opportunity to embrace our Detroit roots and become part of the greatest revitalizations in one of the greatest cities in America,” Brown said.
With plans to relocate 350 staff members by month’s end, and the remaining employees by November, Ally has already occupied 500 Woodward’s 16th level. The open floor plan features glass-door office space, mounted, flat-screen units, adjustable desks for sitting or standing, a cushy employee lounge, and dining area.
A visible tribute to the community is reflected in its neighborhood motifs, such as the 16th floor’s Lafayette design, with Lafayette Park imagery and touches of reclaimed wood. Also planned are interior fixtures and furnishings for other floors in the 300,000-square-foot building that will salute Greektown, Corktown, Woodbridge, the Cultural Center, and Belle Isle, among other locations.
“Detroit has become a vibrant, incredible place to live and work,” Brown said.
Albom, who founded Detroit Water Ice to help support local charitable causes, contributed samples of the flavored, frozen snack to the celebration. Ally took a “313 Pledge” to donate $3.13 for every Detroit Water Ice product sold this month, benefiting S.A.Y. Detroit, Brown said.
“I was taught as a kid that, when a neighbor moves in, you go over to their house and take them some food,” said Albom, praising Ally for its commitment.
“To me, success is measured not by how high you rise up, but whether you take people with you,” he added.
Duggan called Ally Detroit Center another victory for the city.
“This is what we have to get used to in Detroit,” he said. “We have to get used to winning again.”