Detroit Regional Chamber > Chamber > Downtown Detroit’s Steady Recovery

Downtown Detroit’s Steady Recovery

August 16, 2023

Axios Detroit
Aug. 16, 2023
Joe Guillen, Alex Fitzpatrick, and Kavya Beheraj


Downtown Detroit foot recovery graph


Downtown foot traffic is still behind pre-pandemic levels, but big bets on new office and housing developments could change that.

Why it matters: Downtowns are typically the beating economic heart of a city, funneling revenue into city coffers via taxes and more.

Why it matters: The pandemic interrupted a resurgence that began downtown more than a decade ago during developer Dan Gilbert’s epic run on property acquisitions and renovations, Detroit Regional Chamber President Sandy Baruah tells Axios.

  • Return to work has been slower than in other big cities, but restaurants and event spaces are thriving, he says.

By the numbers: New mobile phone activity downtown was recorded this spring at 57% of what it was pre-COVID-19, according to data analyzed by researchers at the School of Cities at the University of Toronto.

Driving the news: The Woodward corridor is replete with ambitious projects to attract new residents and jobs, many incentivized with public funds.

Reality check: Grand openings for these projects have been moving targets — delays, project reconfigurations and cost overruns are common.

  • The first groundbreaking for District Detroit’s new $1.5 billion expansion was expected in July. But that didn’t happen and officials declined to give a new timeline last week.

State of play: A new demolition permit was just issued at Gilbert’s long-anticipated mixed-use development, once known as the Monroe Blocks development and now called the Development on Cadillac Square, Crain’s reports.

  • Demolition plans in 2018 didn’t occur as the project faced obstacles.

Between the lines: The sudden demolition of a historic Cass Corridor Chinatown building last month underscores the expectation among many residents that Detroit’s downtown development boom takes the city’s history into consideration.