Situational Leadership® II at Davenport University’s Institute for Professional Excellence


The Situational Leadership® II (SLII®) program is the most widely taught leadership model in the world and is available as a public offering at Davenport University’s Livonia Campus. Developed by The Ken Blanchard Companies® (author of the One Minute Manager) and delivered by IPEx expert facilitators, the Situational Leadership® II (SLII®) Workshop will equip you with the tools to apply the most effective leadership style in any given situation based on the needs of each team member.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Become a highly skilled, flexible leader who can develop and retain talent
  • Diagnose the development levels of employees and choose the appropriate leadership style
  • Effectively shift employee intentions into behaviors, and behaviors into accountability
  • Improve communication skills and become a more trusted leader
  • Increase the energy, self-reliance, and drive of the employees on your team
  • Help others develop competence, motivation, and confidence
  • Retain your most talented employees by being more responsive to their development needs

Davenport University
Livonia Campus
19499 Victor Parkway
Livonia, MI 48152

Dates & Times:
May 30 – 31, 2017 | 9 am – 5 pm


For more information or to register visit or call:
Email or call Bethany DeVine, Professional Development Representative, IPEx | (616) 233-2589

Help Wanted: Closing Michigan’s Skilled Trades Gap

By Melissa Anders

Construction companies are struggling to find enough qualified skilled trades workers to complete projects in and around the Detroit region — a problem that has rallied businesses, government, educational institutions and labor unions alike. While the issue is not unique to Michigan, it is particularly evident in Detroit, where construction is picking up and massive projects like Little Caesars Arena and the Gordie Howe International Bridge have increased demand.

The shortage means that some projects may take longer to complete and could cost more as supply and demand drive up labor costs, said Todd Sachse, CEO of Detroit-based Sachse Construction. He explained that as older tradesmen retire, there are not enough younger people to take their place.

There are more than 8,300 skilled trades job openings across all industries in Michigan, and more than 6,200 are expected to be available each year through 2022, according to Pure Michigan Talent Connect.

The company is working to attract new talent to the construction industry through various efforts. Maibach pointed to two main reasons behind the shortage: Many workers left the industry in the wake of massive declines during the Great Recession; and skilled trades suffer from a negative perception as a “dirty job” and the only way to be successful is to get a four-year degree.

It is hard to convince parents who would rather spend thousands of dollars to send their children to four-year schools than support a pathway to the skilled trades, said Parmeshwar Coomar, dean of the Applied Science and Engineering Technology Department at Monroe County Community College (MCCC).

But skilled trades are not menial jobs, he said. They require postsecondary education and pay good, living wages. Pay for skilled trades workers vary by experience and specific trade. For example, salaries range from $35,000 to $75,000 for ironworkers, sheet metal workers and plumbers/pipefitters, according to

Apprentices earn pay and benefits while obtaining schooling and on-the-job training that can lead to full-time careers and eventually journey person status.

“You don’t have to be pounding nails for the rest of your life,” Coomar added. Numerous skilled trades students have gone on to earn their associate and bachelor’s degrees and are now leaders at their respective companies.

Monroe offers programs in welding, design drafting and construction management, among other trades. It has 83 apprentices practicing in various trades this semester, and Coomar said he hopes construction companies will come forward to start apprentice partnerships as well.

Just as technological innovation is impacting the skilled trades, education needs to be nimble and adaptive to industry needs, said Michael Nealon, vice president of academic affairs at Henry Ford College (HFC) in Dearborn. He said there needs to be a paradigm shift toward “just-in-time” instruction that allows for students to begin working while continuing to learn new skills.


Leaders at HFC want to see more employers partner with the college and embrace an“earn and learn” approach — that is, to hire students before they finish school, but still allow them to continue their education while employed. They would also like to see more employers stepping up as instructors. Labor unions need to participate and contribute as well, Nealon said.

“It really needs to be a community-wide effort,” said Gary Saganski, HFC’s director of academic relations. Saganski said there is still plenty of work to do in order to close the talent gap in Michigan.

“I do believe we are beginning to move the needle by way of creating employment pathways, competency-based technology programs targeted for these occupations, and local and regional partnerships between the community, education, industry and government,” he said.

Dannis Mitchell, Barton Malow’s diversity manager, is working at the grassroots level. She said for some interested candidates, understanding the skilled trades and job requirements can be difficult. There are nearly 20 different trades, ranging from ironworker to design engineer, available in Michigan.

“People usually blank stare when asked, ‘What kind of construction do you want to get into?’” Mitchell said.

She has spent the last year gathering information to disseminate to prospective candidates to limit confusion during the decision-making process. Sachse Construction is also working with community partners to bolster the talent pipeline. The company and more than 35 of its subcontractors worked with Junior Achievement of Southeast Michigan last October to host a Construction Academy for 500 metro Detroit students.

“The event was a huge success, and we’re looking to host similar educational opportunities in the future, so that we can help young people learn as early as possible that this is a plausible and sustainable career option,”Sachse said.

Melissa Anders is a metro Detroit native and freelance writer.

Read more from this issue below: 

Detroit: A City on the Rise

The Ilitch Touch: Transforming Detroit’s Downtown

Under Construction: Michigan’s Build-To-Suit Market




Detroit: A City on the Rise

By Audrey LaForest

Private investment from the state’s development community is helping to rewrite the narrative for what Detroit will look like in the future. Within the next 10 years, local real estate mavens and developers are envisioning a walkable, diverse and connected city, where residents have access to retail, cultural activities and commercial centers all within a short distance from where they live.

Developer’s Playground

In 2016, Detroit saw development deals ranging from the Detroit Pistons’ plans to move back downtown from Auburn Hills to Quicken Loans founder and chairman Dan Gilbert’s plans for a 20-story office tower and a 16-story residential tower near Campus Martius that will be known as the Monroe Block.

While major developments have had a place in Detroit since the 1990s (e.g., the city’s three casinos, Ford Field and Comerica Park, and construction of the Compuware building), development today is taking on roles both big and small.

“The difference now is that the city really isn’t relying on mega projects, but is relying on dozens and even hundreds of small, more organic projects that really have to do with creating community and creating neighborhoods,” said Peter Cummings, principal at The Platform, a development firm dedicated to rebuilding the city.

Cummings and business partner Dietrich Knoer are leading development projects throughout the city such as the mixed-use apartment complex, Third and Grand.

In March, the company broke ground on the first phase of Baltimore Station, a $7.5 million mixed-use development at the Baltimore Street stop of the QLine streetcar that includes sidewalk retail and restaurant destinations. The second phase of the project includes an additional 150 residential units and 20,000 square feet of retail. The project should be completed by 2019.


Additionally, The Platform team has invested in the redevelopment of the Fisher and Albert Kahn buildings, which the group purchased as part of a $12.2 million deal. Plans for the New Center-based historic landmark buildings include office, entertainment and retail components for the Fisher Building, and retail, office and residential spaces for the Kahn Building. Each building could see in excess of $50 million in investment for the redevelopment, Cummings said.

The Platform is also committed to the city’s neighborhoods, particularly in the Islandview, Livernois and Six Mile Road areas, and Brightmoor, where Cummings purchased five properties for just over $79,000. Rehab of the Brightmoor properties is underway.

“For the recovery that’s occurring in the city of Detroit to be sustainable, it needs to be far more inclusive than it has been,” Cummings said. “There are swaths of the population that have not been participating in the recovery, and they need to participate, and a lot of them are found in the neighborhoods.”

Welcome to Paradise

Near the heart of the city, five teams of developers are heavily vested in the Paradise Valley Cultural and Entertainment District — a $52 million investment within the area formerly known as Harmonie Park.

The projects include Hastings Place, a 60-unit loft apartment with retail and office space and a five-floor parking deck, led by Michigan Chronicle publisher Hiram Jackson and Queen Lillian Development; and Harmonie Club Hotel, a 25- to 30- room hotel in an East Grand River building currently occupied by the Carr Center, led by Patricia Cole of Cole Financial Services Inc. and developer Roger Basmajian.

Other projects for the district are the Paradise Valley Jazz Club and a 16,000 square foot expansion of architecture firm Hamilton Anderson Associates led by the firm’s president and co-owner, Rainy Hamilton; and the addition of residential space above La Casa de la Habana cigar bar led by bar owner Ismail Houmani, who purchased the building on Randolph Street for $1.17 million.

Dennis Archer Jr., president of Archer Corporate Services and chair of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s board of directors, purchased property at 1407 and 1427 Randolph Street in partnership with investors at Gotham Capital Partners. The team is planning a $2.75 million mixed use redevelopment, which will include a cocktail lounge and office space for up to six tenants. Archer said he anticipates his part of the Paradise Valley redevelopment could be completed as early as the fall.

“We want this to be a world-class destination, where there’s art, there’s culture, there’s commerce going on, there’s a creative class there, and there’s world-class hospitality — whether it’s a jazz bar, a lounge, a restaurant or a coffee shop,” Archer said.

Connecting the City

It has been just under two years since architect and urban planner Maurice Cox was appointed director of Detroit’s Planning and Development Department, but he is already unleashing strategies to get the city’s neighborhoods that lie outside of the 7.2 square miles of greater downtown involved.

“A lot of Detroit’s historic neighborhoods were structured for walkability … but over the decades, they’ve fallen into disrepair,” Cox said. “One of the initiatives that we’ve focused on is trying to make those commercial corridors walkable again.”

To get these “neighborhood-serving Main Streets” back — you can already see them popping up on streets like Kercheval and Agnes in West Village, for example — Cox envisions integrating other forms of mobility and transit infrastructure such as protected bike lanes, wider sidewalks, tree canopies, improved lighting and, most importantly, small businesses that are able to fill a void in neighborhood services.

This year, Cox and his team are deploying a set of six coordinated revitalization strategies, one of which focuses on the Fitzgerald neighborhood tucked within the Livernois-McNichols corridor. Another includes a new streetscape plan for the Livernois Avenue of Fashion.

The Fitzgerald development strategy includes rehabbing “dozens and dozens” of homes, Cox said, and turning more than 300 vacant lots into a variety of passive and active green spaces, which will include a neighborhood park at its center and a greenway for bicycles and pedestrians that will connect the University of Detroit Mercy with Marygrove College.

On the city’s eastside, Cox, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, and the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. recently announced a framework for the east riverfront, which will include an expansion of public space, a call for proposals to renovate vacant buildings, and a riverfront promenade that will complete the connection from the Renaissance Center to the MacArthur Bridge at Belle Isle.

“(Developers) talk about the ‘missing middle’ density in Detroit — the townhouses, the row houses, the mid rise, the courtyard buildings — all of those types that are bigger than a single family, but smaller than a high rise,” Cox said. “Detroit has enormous potential to increase those options, and I think those are going to be the opportunities for development in neighborhoods in addition to restoring some of the single family housing stock to its original splendor.”

Audrey LaForest is a metro Detroit freelance writer.

Read more from this issue below: 

Dan Gilbert Taking Detroit to Overdrive

Help Wanted: Closing Michigan’s Skilled Trades Gap

The Ilitch Touch: Transforming Detroit’s Downtown

Detroit-Area Developers Choose to Reuse

By James Amend

All across metro Detroit, what’s old is new again.

Spurred by a rebounding economy, the region’s real estate development is in overdrive and taking a unique twist by bringing failed properties back to life.

“Our market right now is very hot,” said Cindy Ciura, principal of CC Consulting in Bloomfield Hills. “It’s attracting international, as well as national interest.” Residential, commercial and mixed-use developments are occurring in the city of Detroit, led by local urban revivalists Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans, and the Ilitch family. However, this development stretches into every suburban enclave across the tri-county area and beyond.

While the end of the Great Recession unleashed demand for new developments and cash to fund projects, it also shifted the approach of investors, experts say. Developers are wrestling with record-high construction costs because the recession forced many skilled tradesmen out of business, into retirement, or convinced their offspring to find other less-cyclical professions.

Prior to the downturn, developers were paying $75 per square foot to build. Today, it costs $125 per square foot or more, said Chris Brochert, partner and co-owner of Lormax Stern Development Co. in Bloomfield Hills.

“At the same time, inflation has not gone up, so very few can afford these high rents,” he added. To keep a lid on costs, developers have turned to adaptive reuse, where an existing site or building is renovated for purposes other than its original intention. Adaptive reuse is also attractive because it removes blighted properties from communities, encourages parallel real estate investment and, as a form of land conservation, it keeps undesirable urban sprawl in check.

However, adaptive reuse sometimes draws concerns over historical preservation, so developers, communities and governments must work hand-in-glove to succeed.

Government and Community Come Together

The story of Northland Center shopping mall in Southfield illustrates how blight can be erased, new development can be integrated into the community, and history can be preserved. Anchored by a four-story J.L. Hudson’s department store, Northland dominated Detroit shopping for 61 years until it became the victim of suburbanization and competition from newer destinations. It was shuttered in 2015 after falling into financial chaos. But instead of watching the 12-acre site decay, the city of Southfield bought the property for $2.4 million with the intention of spending up to $10 million to raze the mall and sell the land to a developer.

“The city purchased the property to protect, maintain and ultimately increase the property values for Southfield’s home and business owners,” said Southfield Mayor Kenson Siver. “We did not want Northland to become a vacant shopping center significantly blighting the community.”

But while the property has a bright future, an intricately choreographed dance paved the way. The city secured a loan to buy the land and has been conducting fundraisers to repay it. The mall contained a unique tunnel system, which was used for storage and deliveries, and Southfield has been stockpiling dirt at every opportunity to backfill it when it is razed.

Bids were put out for demolition costs and inspections revealed asbestos that must be remediated, a delicate project that should begin in May or June and take up to eight months to complete. An advisory firm was hired to determine the most appealing development contractor, and hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised to secure historically significant pieces of art from the mall.

Community feedback suggested saving the Hudson’s portion of the site for its historical significance and the goal is a mixed-use development. The city has seen preliminary cost estimates and an initial design, which was presented to council members in March. City officials said they would like to turn the site over to developers as soon as possible, but they want to be careful that it complements other projects underway.

“We’re trying to be fiscally responsible in the work we are doing and consistent with other work we’re doing around the city,” said Rochelle Freeman, director of business and economic development for Southfield.

A Much-Needed Facelift

On the region’s east side, Lormax Stern took over the dilapidated Macomb Mall in 2013. The firm renovated and modernized the interior and exteriors, and lured in popular retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kohl’s, Old Navy and Sears.

“We brought it from the 1970s to 2015,” Brochert said. “It is now thriving with new tenants and is more appealing to people in the surrounding area.” Lormax Stern also worked its magic with a former Jacobson’s department store in Grosse Pointe. The 70,000-square-foot building was renovated for first-floor retail and is anchored by tenants such as gourmet grocer Trader Joe’s, and upscale clothiers Jos. A. Bank and LOFT. The second floor was dedicated to office space, while an adjoining parking deck was redone for convenience.

In downtown Birmingham, AF Jonna Development LLC of Bloomfield Hills took over the struggling Palladium Building, downsized its movie theater, and added office and residential space to complement restaurants. Brochert said the project saved an important corridor of the bustling city. “If that would have gone downhill, it would have been disastrous,” he said.

A few miles up the road in Bloomfield Hills, a $500 million mixed-use development called Bloomfield Park stalled in 2008, creating an 87-acre, post-apocalyptic scene of windowless concrete buildings and crumbling parking garages. But in 2015, Southfield-based developer Redico bought the rights to the site and $350 million of initial demolition work started last year.

Dale Watchowski, CEO of Redico, said Bloomfield Park typifies his firm’s strategy. “We’re focused on getting in and out within two years. We don’t want to get tied up in a long deal where the economy can turn on us,” he said. “A successful development requires good project management, and the process has to move quickly.”

James Amend is a senior editor at WardsAuto in Southfield.

Read more from this issue below: 

Under Construction: Michigan’s Build-To-Suit Market

Detroit: A City on the Rise

Help Wanted: Closing Michigan’s Skilled Trades Gap


The Ilitch Touch: Transforming Detroit’s Downtown

By Tom Walsh

Christopher Ilitch, in a Bloomberg Television interview a month before his father died, succinctly captured his family’s role in Detroit’s riches-to-rags-to-revival story.

Detroit “ran into several decades of hard times,” Ilitch said, “and we felt an obligation to do everything we could to bring our city back.”

In the late 1980s, Mike and Marian Ilitch, who co-founded the Little Caesars pizza chain, bought and renovated the Fox Theatre in Detroit and moved the pizza company headquarters downtown from the suburbs – at a time other businesses were
fleeing the city.

When the Tigers played the 2006 World Series in the ballpark he built across the street from the Fox, Mike Ilitch told a reporter, more in candor than in jest, “We were probably about 15 years too early” as pioneers investing in Detroit’s rebirth. Eventually others followed: Peter Karmanos brought Compuware downtown, and in 2010 Dan Gilbert and Quicken Loans jumped in with a bang, buying and renovating buildings and filling them with thousands
of employees.

Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings Inc., has doubled down on his family’s commitment, leading a massive investment in the Little Caesars Arena and The District Detroit –while partnering with Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores with Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores to bring NBA basketball back to the city. It’s a fitting legacy for his late father, who he extolled as “a kind-hearted family man, big-idea businessman, hands-on leader and devoted philanthropist who created opportunity and pride for everyone around him.” Ilitch recently discussed The District Detroit’s progress and the impact on jobs and the city’s neighborhoods during an interview with the Detroiter.

When your mom and dad brought Little Caesars’ headquarters downtown and took on the Fox Theatre renovation, was there a long-term vision that looked anything like The District Detroit?

My parents always loved Detroit – it’s their hometown – and they wanted Detroit to be a vibrant city. They were very excited to take on the Fox Theatre restoration and to move the Little Caesars headquarters downtown. They took so many steps to help re-energize the city: encouraging and supporting the Lions’ move back to Detroit, building Comerica Park and supporting dozens of local charities. The District Detroit, with its amazing collection of sports and entertainment assets, and also residential, retail and office spaces, is a natural extension of their lifelong commitment to Detroit. Some of those early decisions were certainly led by the heart, but the outcome of their early investments, and those of many others is that today Detroit is a great place to do business with a strong outlook for the future.

What is the impact of The District Detroit on investment and jobs?

We’ve already announced investment plans of more than $1.2 billion. We’re working really hard to develop the finest work, live and play district in the country, if not the world. Our investment also includes $175 million for two recently announced projects: the Little Caesars world headquarters campus expansion for our growing pizza business and the new mixed-used building that includes parking, which is currently under construction on Henry Street at Park Avenue. These projects are expected to generate more than 12,500 construction-related jobs, more than 1,100 permanent jobs and more than $2.1 billion in economic impact for our community.

Talk about Tom Gores and his decision to bring the Pistons back to the city core and to pursue a pro soccer franchise. What’s the impact of that move for the region?

Tom Gores’ decision to bring the Pistons to Detroit was a watershed moment for the city. It will contribute tremendously to the positive momentum already underway here and make our city stronger. Detroit is fortunate to have a home-grown entrepreneur like Tom investing so heavily in the city. He is a great businessman who is also committed to doing things the right way. We both share a commitment to making a positive difference in our community, and that’s really what brought our organizations together.

The opening of Little Caesars Arena is less than 200 days away. How will them arena be different than comparable arenas – not only in design and features, but how it interfaces with the surrounding community?

There are a number of innovations that will make an exhilarating experience for fans who attend concerts, sporting events and shows at Little Caesars Arena. We’ve got an incredible outdoor space called the Piazza, a one-of-a-kind indoor experience that’s almost like a downtown street in the Via, and gondola seating that is suspended over the event level for some of the most remarkable views in the world. Other innovations include the Player’s Club tunnel, where fans can see the team enter and leave the ice, and a unique jewel skin around the bowl where we can project video.

At the same time, we put extensive effort into making sure we’re good neighbors to the community surrounding the arena. That includes a number of elements such as building the arena nearly 40 feet below grade so that it blends in with the existing structures. The external facade looks more
like a series of cool buildings than one long wall. We’re also working on a public art program with the College for Creative Studies, landscaping and programming for other public spaces, and more.

How are you addressing the workforce challenges and opportunities triggered by Detroit’s resurgence and the host of new construction projects?

The construction boom throughout the city represents an incredible opportunity for careers in the skilled trades. More than $345 million in contracts awarded for Little Caesars Arena alone have gone to Detroit based or headquartered companies, totaling more than 60 percent of contracts awarded.
And we’ve held dozens of outreach events to attract employees and contractors to our projects, resulting in hundreds of thousands
of hours worked by Detroiters. At the Little Caesars Arena construction site there are more than 1,100 people working every day, and the site has had more than 150 skilled trades apprentices.

Detroit has added about 16,000 new workers downtown since 2013. How many more do we need living and working in the city core to attract the basic amenities that other thriving cities have?

That is a great question. We anticipate the number of people who want to live, work and play in Detroit will only increase. To that end, our plans include the type of “consumer retail” that you are talking about. We are actively discussing where we might want to help develop grocery stores, dry cleaners, gas stations and the like in The District Detroit in the coming years.

How will the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State support growth and jobs in the city?

The Mike Ilitch School of Business will have a lasting impact on Wayne State University, its faculty, staff and students, and this entire community. Wayne State is already one of our city’s largest and most stable employers, and its campus injects youth, energy and culture into our downtown. And now, even more than in the past, we’re seeing these bright minds want to stay right here in Detroit, joining our workforce and becoming leaders in the making, thanks to the city’s amazing momentum. It has always been my parents’ dream to see the vibrant Detroit of their youth return for future generations —the new business school will be an important part of that.

Tom Walsh is a former columnist for the Detroit Free Press.

Editor’s note: This Q&A has been edited for length.

Read more from this issue below:

Detroit: A City on the Rise

Under Construction: Michigan’s Build-To-Suit Market

Dan Gilbert Taking Detroit to Overdrive


Under Construction: Michigan’s Build-To-Suit Market

By Paul Vachon

Several years into Michigan’s economic recovery has provided the business community with a unique perspective: One that has begun to show the fruit of years of rightsizing, innovating and reimagining their mission. The return of a healthy economy has cleared away excess inventories and set the stage for new expansion.

Despite significant industry diversification, however, automotive and manufacturing dominates Southeast Michigan, which makes the status of the industrial real estate market a key indicator of economic health. According to a recent report by Colliers International, the region’s overall vacancy rate stands at 4 percent — a historic low.

Justin Robinson, vice president of business attraction at the Detroit Regional Chamber, attributed this durability to a strong local economy and not just to the routine swing of the market pendulum.

“Right now, the market looks stable for the next several years. One factor is that during the last downturn many of the older, more inefficient buildings were demolished, thus removing that space from the market,” Robinson said. “These were mostly legacy buildings constructed from the 1950s to the 1970s that had been home to OEMs and tier one suppliers. The market has thus been rightsized, so even if it were to experience a downturn, I don’t think it would have a significant impact.”

Despite the tight supply, new space is being added slowly and cautiously, with build-to-suit as the predominate mode of construction. Industry experts say that this is due to a low appetite for risk on the part of many investors.

This approach has both pros and cons, Moran explained. A big disadvantage is the lead time involved with these types of projects. A company opening a new plant generally wants to be up and running within six to nine months, a realistic timetable if a preexisting building can be found. However, Robinson said the schedule for a build-to-suit project is much more time consuming.

“An average building can take as much as 18 months to deliver by the time you identify the site, address potential brownfield issues, get the infrastructure in the ground and put up the structure,” he said.

“This type of timeline can be difficult for many companies.” Robinson pointed out that in other major metropolitan areas, speculative building is common, but its relative scarcity in Southeast Michigan often forces tenants to be creative.

“They might have to take an older or smaller structure and modify it to meet their needs,” Robinson said. An advantage to the build-to-suit option is the ability for the client to specify features that will meet his or her unique needs and operate at maximum efficiency.

As Moran explained, some examples might include a minimal floor thickness to support heavy equipment, steel framing strong enough to accommodate overhead cranes or other equipment, and a sufficient HVAC system that meets state and federal regulations.

As the overall market matures, developers report that build-to-suit options are becoming more specialized. Ryan Dembs, CEO of Dembs Development in Farmington Hills, said that while his company’s build-to- suit volume is increasing, much of it is for technology-related companies. Dembs said his company does do a limited number of on-spec buildings and anticipates other developers will gradually fall in line as their confidence level increases. One developer that recently resumed embracing speculative development is New York-based Ashley Capital, which builds and manages industrial real estate throughout the eastern United States and has an office in Canton.

“In Michigan, we manage 18 to 20 million square feet, the clear majority of which is space we built on greenfields or brownfields, or existing, often blighted, buildings we renovated. In both cases, we worked without a tenant in hand and subsequently leased the buildings out,” said Susan Harvey, senior vice president at Ashley Capital.

“We’re just finishing our first speculative project since the end of the Great Recession, on the site of the Hazel Park Raceway, a 575,000-square-foot building,” she added. For Ashley Capital and others, the gradual emergence from the recession has been fraught with obstacles.

“Lending practices have changed, and it’s gotten more difficult for developers to put together deals for spec buildings,” Harvey said. She does, however, express cautious optimism for the future both locally and throughout the nation.

Paul Vachon is a metro Detroit freelance writer.

Read more from this issue below: 

Detroit-Area Developers Choose to Reuse

Dan Gilbert Taking Detroit to Overdrive

The Ilitch Touch: Transforming Detroit’s Downtown



Dan Gilbert Taking Detroit to Overdrive

By Tom Walsh

If it feels like Dan Gilbert has taken Detroit’s development surge and thrust it into hyperdrive, get ready to buckle up and brace for more.


Borrowing a Winston Churchill quote, after a pivotal World War II battle turned the tide for Britain, Gilbert said, “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is,perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Translation: Detroit’s revival, with QLine streetcars to debut this spring and plans underway for a dazzling 52-story skyscraper on the old Hudson’s site – on the heels of news that a Shinola Hotel is coming, Microsoft moving downtown and a major neighborhood development in Brush Park breaking ground – is still at an early stage.

“We’ve got a lot more to go. I don’t think you’re ever really done as a city. You’re either growing or dying, nothing in between,” said Gilbert, Quicken Loans founder and chairman, whose family of companies has acquired more than 95 properties and grown to 17,000 employees in the city since Gilbert moved Quicken headquarters with 1,500 employees downtown in 2010.

Gilbert’s Quicken and Rock Ventures teams have led development of the QLine project and Detroit’s blight removal task force, are investing $20 million in community projects this year, and and are planning to renovate the David Stott building, Book Tower and the old Detroit Free Press building downtown.

But Gilbert is also reaching out to CEOs from Silicon Valley, Wall Street and elsewhere to peddle a much bigger vision for his hometown.

“Detroit is going to be the center of the world in the next 10 or 15 years, with technology changing the whole world economy. Detroit has a real chance to be THE city where it’s all centered. It’s right there for us,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert recently sat down with the Detroiter to discuss his impact on Detroit’s revitalization and plans for the future.

You have talked about the need to “go vertical” as the next stage of Detroit’s growth in the city core. Why? Where? How soon? And how high?

If we don’t grow vertically, we can’t grow anymore because we’re full (downtown). There are companies that want big chunks of space, 50,000 square feet, and we have nowhere to put them. So we have to build, and that’s the focus of the next few years for sure. Hudson’s will be the tallest building in Detroit, 52 stories, 734 feet high. The tower will be residential. There will be retail on the street and the first floor will be like a showcase — there will be a gap on Woodward, so cars can come in and drive out to do a reveal or something. We plan to showcase the best in technology in a civic space. We’ll also be building on the Monroe blocks and Brush Park.

The QLine streetcar is getting ready to roll. What do you expect the impact to be?

I think it’s going to have more of an effect than anybody believes. The fact that most of QLine is curbside – which I really fought for, big time – will make it easy, logical to use. I don’t know if there’s a street in the world like Woodward Avenue, from Grand Boulevard to the river. It has a beautiful river and a riverwalk and then you come up through parks and retail developments, new construction, and this huge entertainment district that’s got four stadiums … and then you have all the museums. It’s got everything. I think the QLine already has an effect on the real estate market. There are numerous real estate developers who have jockeyed and bought along the route. One of the most impressive things about the Ilitches’ development of The District Detroit is, look at where they put that stadium: right up to Woodward. I was so excited when I saw that. I don’t think that happens without the QLine.

Tell us about your fellow NBA team owner Tom Gores and his decision to move the Detroit Pistons downtown. He is partnering with you on a bid for a pro soccer team, which you would like to build on the unfinished jail site downtown. What will his impact be?

Once the Sacramento Kings opened their new arena downtown last year, the Pistons had the only one of 29 NBA arenas not located in the city – not only not in the city, but 35 miles away. When LeBron James went to Miami for four years and our (Cleveland Cavaliers) team wasn’t doing well, we were at about the same record as the Pistons. I don’t think we’re any better marketers than them; I don’t think there’s any greater appetite for basketball in Cleveland than in Detroit – but we were getting 18,000 fans and Pistons were announcing 9,000 but getting 5,000 in the seats. Why is that? We have the same kind of team, both rebuilding. But you know you’re going to go downtown, have dinner, go to a casino and walk around (in Cleveland).

In Detroit, am I going to drive 35 miles, park 300 yards away on asphalt and freeze my tail off to watch a team that’s not competitive, and then walk out and have nowhere to go to dinner? In the city, you have more chance of drawing fans when the team is not so great, right? I also think that (Tom Gores) genuinely wants to participate in Detroit’s turnaround.

The big private investors in Detroit’s resurgence have been native Detroiters who built successful businesses: the Ilitch family, yourself, Peter Karmanos. What about big money from other states and countries? Are we on the cusp of a major investment influx from outsiders?

I think if you go to Midtown, a significant portion of the developers are out-of-state people. Now, the big investors, there’s no doubt in my mind they want to do something. But they don’t want to do little deals, they want do something big.

Next year, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) is bringing its national 2018 Spring Meeting, about 4,000 people from all over the world, top real estate developers and experts to Detroit. It’s going to be huge. The REITs (real estate investment trusts) are very interested in Detroit. That’s why this ULI convention is a big one, because almost every big real estate developer or owner participates in it.

What is the solution to the oft-cited “two cities” dilemma of a thriving Detroit downtown surrounded by struggling neighborhoods? How will people across the city benefit from Detroit’s resurgence?

When we moved downtown, we had 75 people that lived in the city of Detroit. Now we have 3,500 and we would have 2,000 more if there was product for them to move into. They live in nearly every neighborhood
in the city. You absolutely have to have commercial neighborhood services and jobs. But most of the jobs are going to be in downtown and Midtown for the people in the neighborhoods. That’s just a fact. And the best thing you can do for the neighborhoods is to have jobs, period. We opened up a company named Rock Connections, a call center, just a few years ago. Of the 850 people there, most are Detroit residents. Our CEO, Victor You, wants to hire 2,000 more. We have nowhere to put them; we have no space. In my opinion you need these sort of entry point-type jobs. They get $12 to $15 an hour, plus incentives based on sales sometimes, but full benefits, and the the good ones move onto other businesses. I’m so high on the call center. I’m trying to get everybody that outsources that service – whether it’s to India or the Dakotas or Nebraska – let’s get your call centers in Detroit.

Where does the rapid evolution of self driving cars and other technologies fit into the Detroit development story?

I have to tell you, this is not something I could have predicted, that car technology – what they’re calling autonomous vehicles – was going to take off so fast. I went to CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas the last two years and it’s like THE car technology show. It’s all they talk about. The technology guys want (mobility and self-driving cars) here and the car companies want it here. There’s a case to turn one urban core into the premier place. In Michigan, the governor and legislature already passed the best law in the country for sure, allowing autonomous vehicle testing. And now, the next phase in my view, is turning Detroit into the city where you go to see how this works. You get ahead of the curve.

Tom Walsh is a former columnist for the Detroit Free Press.

Read more from this issue below: 

Under Construction: Michigan’s Build-To-Suit Market

The Ilitch Touch: Transforming Detroit’s Downtown

Detroit: A City on the Rise

Dearborn Hills Junior Golf Leagues Begin June 20

A pair of opportunities for young golf enthusiasts will be offered this summer at Dearborn Hills — “Putters” for ages 9-11, and “Drivers” for ages 12-15. These programs begin June 20. Register at the Dearborn Hills Pro Shop or by calling (313) 563-4653. Printable registration forms are available by going to

American Society of Employers (ASE) announces Michigan’s premier total rewards Compensation and Benefits Conference will take place on May 23

The American Society of Employers (ASE), one of the nation’s oldest and largest employer associations, announces its 7th annual Compensation and Benefits Conference will be held on Tuesday, May 23 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi. This conference comes on the heels of their sold out HR Conference held in March. This year’s event moves to a full day and tickets are expected to go fast.

ASE CEO Mary E. Corrado stated, “This year’s conference encompasses many of the most important aspects of total rewards. Engaging and retaining employees is at the top of the list for most HR professionals and executives. From an increasingly tight labor market, an uncertain political climate, and the ever present challenges of technology, keeping pace with today’s rapidly changing business environment presents real challenges for today’s HR professionals. We have a great line-up of speakers that will educate professionals on how to keep pace with total rewards.”

Specifically, conference attendees will be able to:

  • Learn best practices in compensation and benefit strategies
  • Network with peers and subject matter experts in the field of total rewards
  • Identify ways to make a meaningful impact on their organization’s bottom line

Additionally, ASE will reveal the results of its 2017 compensation surveys. It is the 65th year the surveys have been published.

The keynote speaker for the one-day conference is David Burkus, best-selling author, award-winning podcaster, and associate professor of management at Oral Roberts University. Breakout session topics include Trump Administration Wage and Hour Expectations, Developing Career Paths, the ACA, total reward strategy, performance management, and much more. For a complete conference agenda and registration information, please visit the ASE website.

About the American Society of Employers (ASE) – a Centennial Organization

The American Society of Employers (ASE) is a not-for-profit trade association providing people-management information and services to Michigan employers. Since 1902, member organizations have relied on ASE to be their single, cost-effective source for information and support, helping to grow their bottom line by enhancing the effectiveness of their people. Learn more about ASE at

Detroit Drives Degrees Provides Platform to Discuss Region’s Talent Pipeline

By Daniel Lai

The Detroit Regional Chamber held its Talent Outlook: Detroit Drives Degrees breakfast on Thursday, March 23 at the Detroit Athletic Club to discuss the region’s talent pipeline and report on the first year of the Chamber’s Detroit Drives Degrees (D3) initiative. At standing room only, nearly 200 attendees heard from leaders from the higher education, business, government, nonprofit and philanthropic sectors.

33304034420_f189956d27_oChamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah opened the event by giving a brief overview of the D3 program and making a challenge to the audience. “Sixty percent. That is the one number I want you all to remember today,” Baruah said. “As a region, to compete and succeed, we need at least 60 percent of the population to have a postsecondary credential.”

Baruah noted that of the 11.6 million new U.S. jobs created since the recession, 99 percent have gone to workers with some college education.

D3’s overarching goal is to lead the region in achieving 60 percent postsecondary degree attainment by 2025.

The breakfast featured a keynote address from David Dodson, president of MDC, a nonprofit that publishes research and develops programs focused on expanding opportunity, reducing poverty, and addressing structural inequity.

Drawing from his personal journey, Dodson shared how mobility outcomes can drastically change with a postsecondary credential. His philosophy centered around the belief that a person’s socioeconomic status early in life should not determine where they end up later and education makes all the difference.

He described the pathway to upward economic mobility through a three-step process. First, one must complete foundational education. Secondly, obtain a postsecondary credential. Lastly, enter and advance in the workplace. Educational experience, a support network, work exposure, work experience, professional development and a professional network are all building blocks that must be developed and cultivated to achieve success.

Dodson stressed that the biggest takeaway for the business community is to not only build pathways or launchpad institutions, like D3, but to help those in disadvantaged communities truly navigate and fully understand the path to achieving the American dream.

The breakfast also featured a panel that shared insight on how to strengthen the Detroit region’s homegrown talent pipeline. Dodson was joined by Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest; William Huffaker, global director of talent acquisition for General Motors Co.; and moderated by Brandy Johnson, executive director of the Michigan College Access Network.

The discussion centered on the concept that talent, not capital, is Detroit’s most important asset.

“Detroit children are at the bottom of student achievement,” Arellano said. “A Boston fourth-grade student, educationally, is three years ahead of that of a Detroit student. The schools can’t do it alone. We all need to become advocates, pushing for urgency, excellence and equity.”

“The talent pipeline picture really isn’t pretty,” Huffaker added. “At General Motors, we hire someone with a STEM background every 26 seconds. Our community has changed so much over the last five years than in the last 50 years. As a community, we need to not only consume talent, but produce talent.”

Huffaker also suggested the creation of a more robust mentor program. “Everyone knows that they should have a mentor, but not everyone knows how to use a mentor,” he said.

The morning also included the announcement of the winners of the “Race to the FAFSA Line” challenge, which encouraged students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The challenge was a part of D3’s initiative to improve regional postsecondary outcomes.

Daniel Lai is a communications specialist and copywriter at the Detroit Regional Chamber.