A two square mile area just north of downtown Detroit is the city’s latest success story. Anchored by the Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Health System, and Wayne State University, Midtown has become a vibrant business district, cultural center, and residential neighborhood with the help and leadership of Midtown Detroit, Inc. (MDI).
One of MDI’s crucial roles has been helping developers acquire and restore vacant buildings throughout the district. MDI has worked with its anchors to improve these urban eyesores and encourage students, employees, and urban pioneers to make Midtown their home. MDI has worked directly with developers to rehabilitate, modernize, and restore legacy buildings in Midtown such as 71 Garfield.
Once a hotel, the 71 Garfield arts mixed-use development has revived a fire ravaged building, turning it into 22 live/work spaces and eight art studio/retail spaces. In total, there has been nearly $2 billion of investment in the Midtown area over the last decade. Much of this investment has resulted from MDI’s advocacy for Historic Tax Credits that developers have used to finance the renovations. In addition, MDI established a pre-development loan fund twenty years ago that has funded almost all housing developments in the district. Midtown has also benefited from the Obsolete Property Act, which allows property owners to pay pre-renovation taxes for 12 years after a completed renovation.These incentives, combined with the close proximity to downtown, local businesses, and cultural institutions, have helped revitalize the Midtown area and given people a reason to live in this vibrant urban core.
Willing investors and pioneering citizens have sparked an urban renaissance in Midtown. Three of the four investment areas in Midtown have gained population in the last ten years, and residential occupancy rates have reached 96 percent. For Sue Mosey, president of MDI, housing was the answer to Midtown’s resurgence: “Without people living here, we can’t do anything,” she says.