Hockey Haven

The new $650 million Red Wings arena and entertainment district vows to dazzle Detroit.


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(page 4 of 6)

“It allows anybody who’s talking to anybody to be able to tell the story, because the district is really about that vision coming to life,” Topacio says. “We all have to refer to it somehow, although eventually people will refer to it as the sports and entertainment district, or whatever they come up with on their own.”

Gyro also was asked to create logos and brand identities for each of the distinctive neighborhoods, which requires a full team of designers in order to ensure that each one has a distinctive look and feel.

As the neighborhoods rise and the business activity grows, everyone involved expects the milling and moving of people at street level will become a more common feature of the area. That’s by design, of course, and if one objective in promoting more pedestrian traffic is to spur surrounding retail development, Kraemer says initial feedback from out-of-town developers suggests it’s having the intended effect. 

“We’re getting weekly calls from developers out of New York, who are all very interested,” Kraemer says. “Prior to the 2008 economic drop, we would see calls on a limited basis from out-of-towners, and most of the time they were very trepidatious calls — kind of sniffing around, but very nervous. Asking, ‘Is it safe? What about the corruption?’ That’s all gone away. We don’t get asked if it’s safe. We don’t get asked about the city culture.”

While Kraemer believes District Detroit could help lay the groundwork for a retail revival on Woodward, he knows there are other issues that will have to be worked out before that happens.

“Retailers have been shy of Woodward Avenue because of the M-1 Rail,” Kraemer says. “While it’s under construction, no one wants to be a retailer in a construction zone. As soon as M-1 moves out of the way, you’ll see the next wave of retailers come in. And often, on Woodward, they’re … big retail spaces. You really have to have major retailers, whereas in Capitol Park and Harmonie Park, the retail spaces are more manageable.”

James Bieri, principal of Detroit-based Stokas Bieri Real Estate, says Olympia appears to have learned from other developments — some local, some not — that did well in their own right but created little in the way of spinoff development. Specifically, the developments of Comerica Park and Ford Field, which brought people downtown but didn’t spur significant new development in the area. He believes the Ilitch organization took a broader view of the District Detroit plan to ensure that wouldn’t be the case this time around. They can also learn a lesson, Bieri says, from what happened when the Washington Nationals’ stadium was built.

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