The new $650 million Red Wings arena and entertainment district vows to dazzle Detroit.
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Initial goals for the project were to have at least 30 percent of contractors and 50 percent of workers come from within the city. To date, more than 13,000 Detroit residents have registered for job opportunities with the project, as the result of a multifaceted outreach effort that included a major event at Cobo Center. In addition, Diggs says more than 65 percent of contracts awarded thus far have gone to Detroit-based contractors — all of whom are expected to have a utilization plan for how to maximize the use of Detroit-based workers.
No construction job is ever permanent, of course, but District Detroit is designed to create much more economic vitality than one would expect simply from the duration of a building project. Between the new homes, the revitalized retail, and the spinoff development of a hotel, office buildings, and restaurants in the area, the project’s broader vision is to boost the quality of life and the tax base while creating a culture that sees large, enthusiastic crowds as a regular feature of city life.
It’s not that Detroit has never seen that before, or even that it’s been unheard-of recently. The appeal of Midtown to younger residents speaks to the city’s plausibility as a gathering spot, while the uptick in things like bicycle activity around the city suggest people are no longer so reluctant to experience Detroit as a recreational spot.
It’s been a generation since Detroit has seen a development this ambitious, this multifaceted, and, arguably, this strategically conceived. It’s still only a section of the city, and District Detroit’s success won’t solve every problem that looms in the neighborhoods — nor will it change the fact that thousands of abandoned buildings blot the city’s 138-square-mile landscape.
But nothing changes the equation like renewal and prosperity, especially on the kind of scale the Ilitch family envisions with District Detroit. As the city’s bankruptcy fades into history, no one can claim that Detroit emerged without any love from investors who believed in its potential. Certainly not with a project like this underway.
People always say the only place you can go from rock bottom is up, but that doesn’t mean everyone rises. Detroit, at least, is on its feet.