Detroit is a city on a long, long roller-coaster ride: it’s been on top of the world, it’s been as low as you can go, and tomorrow will undoubtedly bring both new hills and new thrills. Call it Motor City, the D, Comeback City…they all apply and more.
Certainly, Comeback City was appropriate in spring of 2018, when Detroit emerged from bankruptcy, where it had struggled since 2013. And there were encouraging words for the tourism industry—which currently welcomes 19 million visitors annually who spend more than $6 billion. Lonely Planet declared that Detroit was number 2 on its top 10 of cities to visit worldwide, beating out Canberra, Australia; Hamburg, Germany; Kaohsiung, Taiwan; Antwerp, Belgium; Matera, Italy; Guanajuato, Mexico; and Oslo, Norway. Only sublime Seville, Spain beat out Comeback City. “It’s damn good,” Larry Alexander, head of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, told the Detroit Free Press. “This is gigantic for Detroit to be included. I’ll take No. 2 and be very happy.” The New York Times helped pull Detroit from the pack in 2017, ranking it 9th in its esteemed 52 Places to Go.
The 6.6-mile QLine streetcar—named after Quicken Loans, which bought naming rights—has been operational on the Woodward Corridor for a couple of years. Yet more than $7 billion in investment has poured into the corridor route since 2013, according to the project developers. More than 210 development projects have been completed, are under construction or planned throughout Downtown, Midtown, New Center and the North End. Not only is the Woodward Corridor a major downtown link; Detroit ranks #15 in Connectivity, our measure of ease in accessing a major airport.
Quicken Loans, its founder Dan Gilbert and its estate arm, Bedrock Detroit, have had an outsize role in the comeback. The latest plans of the city’s dominant property owner include restorations, a new tower, a skyscraper and a building addition—five years worth of work that will provide 15,000 construction jobs and 9,000 permanent jobs, and add 3.2 million square feet of office, retail and residential space.
A recent city success is District Detroit, 50 blocks of mixed-use entertainment, community spaces, outdoor plaza, commercial and residential development around the freshly-minted $863-million Little Caesar’s Arena—home to the fabled Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League and the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, which has come home from the suburbs after 40 years. (Detroit is 9th in our ranking for sports teams.) The District Detroit is designed to connect Downtown and Midtown into a contiguous, walkable area that will attract families, sports fans, entrepreneurs, job seekers, entertainment lovers and others. The city’s current ranking of 35 for nightlife should get a boost in coming years.