Midtown Detroit Anchor Strategy

U3 Advisors was engaged by a consortium of foundations in Detroit including The Kresge Foundation and Hudson-Webber Foundation to create a strategy for Midtown Detroit that leverages major anchor institutions – Wayne State University, Detroit Medical Center, and Henry Ford Health System – to revitalize their shared district that is rich with institutional uses but lacking in vitality. Over a period of three years, U3 Advisors worked with the Anchors to create and implement institutional programs, advance a midtown community development organization, facilitate a physical development plan for the Woodward-Cass Corridor, and put in place strategic initiatives that forward the development of Midtown.

Midtown Detroit has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past five years, but continued work is needed to maintain the momentum. As such, we are currently engaged by The Kresge Foundation to coordinate, integrate and leverage the multiple current and future initiatives that will focus around Midtown Detroit.

The key to realizing Midtown’s tremendous potential has been a set of coordinated strategies designed and implemented by U3A that are bringing new residents, businesses, and development to the district, as well as laying the groundwork for new technology-based businesses to emerge. The following programs have already begun to shape the re-emergence of Midtown Detroit:

  • Live Midtown. The Live Midtown program is a $1.2M housing incentive program that provides down-payment assistance, home improvement grants, and rental incentive to employees of the three anchor institutions. Over 600 households have been attracted and retained in Midtown and the initial one-year pilot of Live Midtown was extended for an additional four years. Based on its success, the program has been adopted by downtown employers – a move that leverages further the significant impact the anchors have already had.
  • Source Detroit. Source Detroit is a strategy to increase institutional purchasing from Detroit based businesses by creating policies and practices for greater focus on Detroit vendors, and by supporting, attracting or creating new businesses to serve the anchors’ needs. Source Detroit focused on a commodity-based approach that transferred over $16.5 million in purchases to Detroit based businesses in 2 years. Critical to the success of Source Detroit has been the effort to identify local businesses and support them in becoming competitive. In 2012, Source Detroit was incorporated into the D2D program run by the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.
  • Midtown Detroit Inc. Key to undertaking the above programs was the development of a local base for on-going program management and know-how. U3A worked with philanthropic and anchor partners to help develop Midtown Detroit Inc. (MDI) by combining two separate community development organizations. U3A also envisioned a new storefront office for MDI called the Midtown Co-Lab, which includes a community room, coffee shop, the Detroit offices for the Kresge Foundation, and a central meeting place for the many people and organizations working along the Woodward Corridor.

    Through the creation of MDI and the anchor programs, Detroit was able to secure a Living Cities Integration Initiative grant that has brought $24 million in investment to the Woodward Corridor in Detroit. In 2013, Midtown Detroit Inc. was awarded the prestigious ULI Global Award for Excellence for its work in transforming Midtown.
  • Innovation Network and TechTown Innovation District. For the City of Detroit to transition from the manufacturing economy that once defined it to a knowledge-based, 21st Century economy with a vibrant urban core, it is vital to create jobs that are increasingly technology based and globally competitive. These jobs not only attract and retain highly educated workers in the City, but also provide a growing tax base which allows the City to then invest in infrastructure and services for all of its residents.

    The Innovation Network will link and enhance technology, research, development, and commercialization assets in Southeast Michigan to grow its position as a nationally significant center for entrepreneurship, and accelerate the growth of early stage businesses into venture ready companies. The Innovation Network will have a physical manifestation in the TechTown Innovation District through the formation and capitalization of a real estate development entity structured to attract investment from both the anchors and private sector, and engage in joint venture development.
  • Physical planning. As demand for residential, retail, commercial, and research spaces increases in Midtown, new supply will eventually find its way to the market. However in order to create a dense, walk-able urban district, it is critical that new development be undertaken in a way that promotes Midtown as a destination for residents, workers and visitors alike, and leverages other physical development plans being undertaken by public and private entities. In coordination with the anchors, U3A led a physical planning exercise with that focuses mixed-use development on key institutionally owned parcels in Midtown.

U3A also developed a district plan for the TechTown innovation district with Sasaki that plans for a vibrant, mixed-use district for entrepreneurship and production. The first phase of the TechTown District Plan will be manifested in the TechTown Living Room - a new public space geared towards fostering collaboration within the district that will open in 2014.