Gilbert plans downtown Detroit retail space

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Courtesy of The Detroit Free Press

If downtown Detroit suffers one glaring lack, it’s the dearth of retail, but Dan Gilbert took a step Thursday toward filling that gap.

Quicken Loans founder and Chairman Gilbert announced through his development arm Rock Ventures that it will build a 1,300-space parking garage with 33,000 square feet of retail space in downtown Detroit.

That amount of retail space on the ground floor of the garage would translate into roughly 10 to 20 new stores, depending on how much space each one takes. No retailers have been identified yet.

Coming on top of the Whole Foods grocery store under construction in Midtown and the rising number of coffee shops, restaurants, and temporary or pop-up retail stores on Woodward, the downtown and Midtown scene shows clear evidence of a retail revival, although with a long way still to go.

“Downtown Detroit’s population is growing every day, as new start-ups launch and other companies move downtown,” Gilbert said Thursday in a statement. “In two years alone, the number of people who work in the central business district has increased by more than 10,000 people. These folks need parking, and more places to eat and shop. Our new development will help meet some of this demand.”

George Jackson, president of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., said the project will help the city continue its downtown revival.

“More parking, more retail stores and more restaurants, all of these conveniences and services are part of what is required to create a thriving urban core that people want to live in and visit,” Jackson said.

Construction on the Z-shaped retail and parking development is expected to start this month and take a year to complete. The structure will zigzag from the corner of Broadway and East Grand River to the corner of Library and Gratiot, occupying what is now a surface parking lot.

The announcement follows one earlier this week that Moosejaw, the quirky outdoor retailer, will open a pop-up storefront store on Woodward downtown during the holiday shopping season.

Jim Bieri, a retail consultant with Detroit-based Stokas Bieri, said dining and beverage establishments typically lead the way in a downtown retail comeback.

“The trick with retail is you’ve got to have people living down here or a daytime population larger than we have,” Bieri said Thursday. “But we’re heading in the right direction.”

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