City in Action

September 29, 2017  |   Story by Cassandra Spratling  

Detroit Is a Destination Pumping With a Newfound Energy You Can See, Hear, Touch and Taste

There’s an exciting, almost electric energy moving through metro Detroit. It whips through cyclists who are pedaling their way toward making Detroit one of the most bike-friendly cities in the nation. It eases along the QLine, the city’s new streetcar system that is reviving life up and down the city’s historic Woodward Avenue, from downtown to West Grand Boulevard.

It’s also spreading along that iconic boulevard, where plans are underway for a $50 million expansion of the Motown Museum, the place where music was made that still has people around the world dancing in the streets.

The surge extends throughout the tri-county area, too. In Chesterfield Township, for, example, outdoor retailer Cabela’s opened its first metro Detroit location this past summer. At Great Lakes Crossing Outlets in Oakland County, Round 1 Bowling and Amusement complex is set to open its first Michigan location this fall.

The buzz is even being felt by Hollywood types such as actor Hill Harper, who purchased the Roasting Plant coffeehouse in downtown Detroit and bought a house he is renovating in the city’s historic Boston-Edison neighborhood. “Detroit was the original Silicon Valley,” Harper said, explaining his affection for the city. “It was built on innovation and entrepreneurship. Plus, it has old-school Midwest values, so it offers the best of both worlds.”

Artists and other creative types are also driving Detroit’s newfound cool, Harper said. Detroit-based architect Rainy Hamilton, whose stamp is on a lot of the city’s recently proposed development, agreed, saying he hasn’t seen this kind of creativity and construction in his entire career. “What’s happening here is a real treat for all of us — Detroiters and visitors,” Hamilton noted. “It gives us a ton of things to do. It’s bringing people downtown. Once you get the heart of the city pumping, it’s going to spill out into the neighborhoods.”

Leading the Surge

A lot of the gasoline fueling Detroit’s multipronged new developments is stationed on Woodward Avenue near Henry and Temple streets, where the spectacular 20,000-plus-seat Little Caesars Arena opens this fall. The arena is the new home of Detroit Red Wings hockey and Detroit Pistons basketball.

 

Rendering of interior hockey rink

Little Caesars Arena courtesy of The District Detroit

This forms the nucleus of what’s been successfully branded The District Detroit — a 50-block multifaceted concentration of places that are making the city a desired place to live, learn, work and play. As its website states: “A world-class sports and entertainment development — 50 blocks, eight theaters, five neighborhoods, four teams — one big win for Detroit.”

The entire area includes long-standing jewels such as The Fillmore Detroit and the Fox Theatre; Little Caesars headquarters, which is being renovated and expanded; and, eventually, nearly 700 new apartments. Additionally, Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business is under construction right next door to Little Caesars Arena.

Attraction That Attracts

Even before its doors officially opened, Little Caesars Arena’s first six scheduled acts were nearly sold out, including its celebratory opening concert series in September featuring hometown star Kid Rock and October concerts by Paul McCartney. Tickets to the first McCartney concert sold so quickly, a second was immediately added.

Little Caesars Arena’s design is an attraction in its own right. Spaces and places in the arena are designed to make it bustle every day, not just on game days. A unique covered atrium called The Via offers a street-like vibe with entertainment, shopping and dining. The Piazza has a massive video screen for additional entertainment.

“It really is a gem of a facility,” said Doug Kuiper, vice president of communications at Ilitch Holdings Inc. “We’ll have top-flight entertainers of every kind but also smaller events, more community-oriented events. There are a variety of spaces in and around the arena that lend themselves not just to headline acts but to budding artists and art festivals as well as food-based, craft cocktail and beer events that are such a big thing in our community right now. We really think there will be something for everybody.”

Visitors enter the new arena on the main level, eliminating the need to navigate lots of stairs. Wide, comfy seats have cupholders. Sight lines are superior.

The state-of-the-art business school next door blends like an extension of the arena. Opening in 2018, it will offer teaching, learning and sharing space not just for its students but for businesspeople in and outside of Detroit as well.

City Evolving

The District Detroit represents a dream come true for Marian Ilitch and her husband, the late Mike Ilitch, arguably Detroit’s comeback pioneers. Their vision of a walkable, attractive community in the heart of the city is now being overseen by their son, Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings.

Also helping transform the city’s core into a downright fun place to live and work is real estate mogul and businessman Dan Gilbert. He is scheduled to break ground this December on what will be Detroit’s tallest building — a proposed 52-story skyscraper on the site of the former J.L. Hudson department store. It’ll include housing, retail and space for artistic and cultural experiences.

Other Gilbert-infused projects reviving the city’s landscape include 28Grand, an eight-story complex of 218 fully furnished micro-lofts that are set to begin leasing in 2017. The 130-room Shinola Hotel, built in conjunction with luxury goods maker Shinola, is slated to open on Woodward Avenue in fall 2018.

“This is a perfect time to come and see just how far the city has evolved,” said Eric Larson, chief executive officer of the Downtown Detroit Partnership. “In many ways, we’ve been blessed with a very, very strong civic, philanthropic, business and artistic community that has really allowed the city a second chance. We have had a real sea change. Detroiters — those who work and live here — have this gritty determination, and there was no option but for us to move forward.”

Moving Ahead

On a more literal note, Detroit’s two newest modes of transportation are helping to move people forward—and back—so they can enjoy a great deal of the new retail, housing, restaurants, sports and entertainment facilities and workplaces in Detroit.

First, there is the QLine, a streetcar system that began running from downtown to West Grand Boulevard this past spring and quickly proved its value as an easy, attractive and economical way to connect people to shops, restaurants, work, cultural attractions and more along the 3-mile-plus stretch. It costs $3 for a daily pass or $1.50 for a three-hour pass. Monthly and yearly passes are also available.

 

Streetcar on Woodward Avenue

QLine by Bill Bowen

“It’s great for everyone, but especially visitors who then don’t have to figure out how to navigate through traffic or where to park,” said Sommer Woods, vice president of external relations for the QLine. “It’s a great way for people to explore what’s happening in the downtown corridor. And it helps people connect to other parts of the city.”

Louis and Donna Gormely, of metro Detroit suburb Grosse Pointe Woods, along with their two children, were among a steady stream of passengers who enjoyed free rides during the opening weeks of the QLine. Gormely, a season ticket holder with the Red Wings, said he was super happy about the development in The District Detroit and throughout the city. “I think it’s fabulous,” he said. “It has brought a lot of jobs to Detroit, along with new places to enjoy.”

MoGo, the city’s first public bike share system, also launched to great fanfare in the spring. It offers 430 red-orange bikes that people can rent from 40 kiosks (with more stations coming) in several sections of the city. The primary cost option is $8 for a daily pass that’ll give you an unlimited number of 30-minute trips.

“MoGo is for all,” said Lisa Nuszkowski, MoGo’s executive director. “The transit rider looking for better connections, the resident seeking more flexibility and convenience in their daily travels, the employee who needs to run an errand at lunch or head to a meeting, the student who needs an affordable form of transportation, and the visitor looking to explore the city.”

Explore the cool, newish places to shop in and near Detroit

ArtLoft, Bird Bee, Bonobos, Boro Resale, Cass Collective, The Collective, Détroit is the New Black, House of Pure Vin, Nike Community Store, North End Collective, Third Man Records, Under Armour, Warby Parker, Yama, Zarkpa’s Purses and Accessories in Detroit • Amazon Pop-Up, Merit Goodness and Vans Outlet at Great Lakes Crossing Outlets in Auburn Hills • Cabela’s in Chesterfield Township • Macy’s Backstage inside Macy’s stores at Fairlane Town Center in Dearborn, Oakland Mall in Troy and Lakeside Mall in Sterling Heights • Shinola Store at the Somerset Collection in Troy • American Girl (temporary store through Jan. 28, 2018) at Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi

More That’s New To See and Do In and Around The D

Beacon Park, DTE Energy’s new 1.5 acre green oasis at Grand River and Cass Avenue — near The District Detroit — opened this summer. The park offers daily activities, including concerts and sporting events and, next spring, a Belgian-style cafe with the city’s only living roof — meaning it’ll have greenery growing year-round as well as seating when weather permits.

 

Woman on a lit up seesaw at night

Beacon Park by Downtown Detroit Partnership

The Velodrome complex, at I-75 and Mack Avenue, will offer a multipurpose sports and recreation facility, including a state-of-the-art velodrome for world-class bicycle racing and training; three fields for different sports; a track for running, walking and skating; space for fitness classes; and a cafe. Activities here are expected to attract people from all over the world, said Dale Hughes, executive director of the Detroit Fitness Foundation, which plans to open the center this fall. The facility is slated to host the 2017 U.S. Cycling Madison Track National Championships on
Oct. 19-21.

The Corner Ballpark, on the site of Old Tiger Stadium, is set to open this fall. It will be the new home field of Detroit PAL (Police Athletic League). “The corner of Michigan and Trumbull has a 100-year history of legendary ball playing,” said Tim Richey, executive director of Detroit PAL. “The restored field will offer visitors a chance to be a part of history and at the same time witness future generations of players.” Visitors to the field will be able to play ball, run the bases or simply watch games from the bleachers.

Elton Park will be a mix of renovated and new homes and trendy shops on 4.5 acres in Corktown, in the area around Trumbull and Elizabeth Street. “We’re going to make this a walkable, intimate neighborhood,” said Tysen McCarthy, vice president of Soave Real Estate, of the project still under construction. “Visitors are going to want to come see a new section of Detroit that is thriving, located in an area that already has a reputation as a destination.”

The Detroit riverfront continues to evolve as an exciting place to walk, run, bike or simply relax near sparkling waters. Among the newest projects is Portal View, an interactive computer and artifacts housed in a revamped shipping container in front of the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority. It allows people to learn maritime history of the riverfront and to follow the ships navigating the river and Great Lakes in real time.

“We have had a real sea change. Detroiters — those who work and live here — have this gritty determination, and there was no option but for us to move forward.” — Eric Larson, Downtown Detroit Partnership

New Places to Stay In and Around The D

With all the new metro Detroit attractions, people need places to stay when visiting. In recent hotel headlines, the hipster hotel Trumbull & Porter in Corktown has been garnering attention, along with the transformation of a downtown firehouse into the 100-room Detroit Foundation Hotel. By maintaining architectural features such as its signature red doors and incorporating handcrafted and artistic elements, it preserves a historic feel in a classy-comfy, modern space. The hotel’s Apparatus Room restaurant, located in what was the apparatus room of the firehouse, is run by Michigan native and two-star Michelin chef Thomas Lents.

 

Hotel lobby

Detroit Foundation Hotel by Michelle & Chris Gerard

The Siren Hotel, in the historic Wurlitzer Building, is scheduled to open its 106-room property this fall. Soon after, in 2018, travelers can experience the 110-room Element Detroit Hotel in the Metropolitan Building, the West Elm Hotel from furniture and home decor retailer West Elm in Midtown and the 130-room Shinola Hotel, a joint venture of Bedrock and goods maker Shinola.

Not surprisingly, The District Detroit also has plans for its own on-site hotel. Details on the name and the official grand opening are still under wraps, but rumors continue to surface that it will be in 2019.

Mentioned Attractions And Venues
  1. Motown Museum
    2648 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit, MI 48208313-875-2264 Highlight on map | More Details
  2. Great Lakes Crossing Outlets
    4000 Baldwin Road, Auburn Hills, MI 48326248-454-5000 Highlight on map | More Details
  3. Roasting Plant
    660 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48226313-782-4291 Highlight on map | More Details
  4. Detroit RiverFront Conservancy
    600 GM Renaissance Center, Ste. 1720, Detroit, MI 48243313-566-8200 Highlight on map | More Details
  5. Detroit Foundation Hotel
    250 W. Larned St., Detroit, MI 48226313-915-4422 Highlight on map | More Details
  6. Trumbull & Porter
    1331 Trumbull Ave., Detroit, MI 48216313-496-1400 Highlight on map | More Details
  7. The Siren Hotel
    1509 Broadway St., Detroit, MI 48226313-277-4736 Highlight on map | More Details
  8. Shinola
    441 W. Canfield St., Detroit, MI 48201313-285-2390 Highlight on map | More Details
  9. Little Caesars Arena
    2645 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI, United States Highlight on map | More Details
  10. The Velodrome Complex
    Tolan Playfield, Detroit, MI, United States Highlight on map
  11. The Corner Ballpark
    1620 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48216, USA Highlight on map
  12. Elton Park
    2000-2098 Brooklyn St, Detroit, MI 48216, USA Highlight on map
  13. Element Detroit Hotel
    Metropolitan Building, Detroit, MI, United States Highlight on map
  14. West Elm Hotel
    4400 Cass Ave, Detroit, MI 48201, USA Highlight on map