Gilbert Doubles Down on Downtown Detroit With Ambitious Placemaking Plan

Rather than succumb to the negative news surrounding Detroit's dire financial situation, businessman and booster Dan Gilbert is doubling down on his extensive investment in the city with an ambitious effort to enliven downtown's public spaces.

2 minute read

March 29, 2013, 11:00 AM PDT

By Jonathan Nettler @nettsj


A new upscale grocery store, new retail storefronts, activated parks and plazas, and pedestrian amenities are part of the broad “Placemaking Vision For Downtown Detroit” unveiled this week by Dan Gilbert.

"As early as this summer, the Quicken Loans Inc. chairman said Thursday, downtown workers and visitors will see planned infrastructure upgrades to Grand Circus and Capitol parks," reports Daniel Howes. "In the works are outdoor cafes, a beer garden, concerts, movies, new landscaping and upgrades to the ground floors of Gilbert-owned buildings."

"'A big chunk of this is going to happen this summer,' he told a crowd of roughly 400 downtown business owners and supporters crammed into the City Theater. 'Agreed upon. Funded. What Detroit doesn't need is a grand plan that's 50 years out, 20 years out, 10 years out.'"

"'We're all in,' said the mortgage impresario, who less than three years ago began moving his companies downtown from Livonia and since has acquired 22 buildings in the city. 'We have no Plan B because if we did, we believe it would distract from Plan A.'"

Developed with the assistance of the Project for Public Spaces, Terremark, Shook Kelly and Gibbs Planning Group, the over-arching goals of the plan are "[t]o create street-level energy that is inviting and comfortable. And, second, to use the bones of Detroit's past — its historic buildings and iconic parks — to chart the city's future with investment that builds density by bringing people (and market demand) back downtown," says Howes.

Friday, March 29, 2013 in The Detroit News

Aerial view of Oceanwide Plaza skyscrapers covered with graffiti tags.

LA’s Abandoned Towers Loom as a “$1.2 Billion Ruin of Global Capital”

Oceanwide Plaza, shuttered mid-construction after its developer filed for bankruptcy, has stood vacant on prime Los Angeles real estate since 2019.

May 21, 2024 - The Architect's Newspaper

Entrance to a drive-through car wash at night with green 'Enter' sign.

Ohio Towns Move to Ban New Car Washes

City officials in northeast Ohio are putting limits on how many car wash facilities can open in their towns.

May 16, 2024 - News 5 Cleveland

Ornate, tan stone capitol building with a gold dome roof and low-rise city buildings in the background.

States Are Banning Guaranteed Income Programs

Four states now have laws in place that prevent cities and counties from creating or continuing guaranteed income programs, and several more have tried or are trying.

May 23, 2024 - Bloomberg CityLab

California Governor Gavin Newsom announcing funding for tiny home shelter project in front of quick-build tiny home shelter unit.

California’s Tiny Home Pledge Still on Paper, One Year Later

A promise to fund 1,200 tiny homes for unhoused residents in four cities as a way to rapidly and cost-effectively provide shelter has yet to yield tangible results, but projects are moving ahead in some cities.

May 24 - CALmatters

Residential neighborhood in Colorado with fall foliage and snowy mountains in background.

Colorado Ends Non-Family Occupancy Limits

Local jurisdictions will no longer be able to limit how many unrelated adults can live in a household, a move that supporters say will help lower housing costs and help older adults supplement their incomes and stay in their homes.

May 24 - Strong Towns

A white crosswalk painted by Crosswalk Collective LA in Los Angeles, California.

Guerilla Urbanism Spurs Action From Cities

Rather than take a hostile approach to DIY urbanism, some cities are using guerilla efforts as an opportunity to understand critical infrastructure gaps.

May 24 - Smart Cities Dive

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.