Austin Black II is the founder of City Living Detroit, a full-service real estate brokerage that is headquartered in Detroit’s thriving Midtown neighborhood. His firm specializes in properties located in Detroit with a focus on downtown, the growing riverfront, the cultural center, and the city’s historic neighborhoods.
From an early age Black had shown an interest in urban development and major metropolitan cities. His fascination started with an elementary school project about skyscrapers and wind velocity. It continued later in life while studying at the university level. He is a graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, College of Architecture, Art and Planning where he studied redevelopment projects abroad and earned a Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Studies. Black was also a Public Policy and International Affairs Fellow at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.
After visiting more than 20 cities in Europe and Italy and earning a degree that concentrated on Real Estate and Urban Redevelopment, Black decided to return home to Detroit and put his knowledge and passion to make Detroit a better place to live, work and raise a family. He was determined to make a difference.
Upon his return, non-profit organizations like Detroit Synergy introduced Black to a diverse group of people that had a common goal of creating positive change in the community. Black credits Detroit Synergy for finding organizations with similar goals that helped him build a stronger connection to the community and introduced him to other opportunities.
In 2004, Black and four other young professionals came together to plan an event to showcase residential options in the city of Detroit. With the help of Matt Cullen of Rock Ventures and General Motors, the group hosted a housing fair at the GM Wintergarden. As a result of this partnership, City Living Detroit was formed, an organization that promotes Detroit as a vibrant urban center by providing resources that encourage people to move into the city.
Over the last four years, City Living Detroit has produced four housing fairs, three magazines, and several bus tours of residential developments throughout the city. Many people that attend its events are surprised at the amount of development happening here.
According to Black, there are several bright spots outside the growing Midtown and downtown neighborhoods.
“The Villages and East Jefferson corridor are seeing new retail business open, Livernois in northwest Detroit is starting to see new businesses open and Grandmont, Rosedale neighborhoods are going through an aggressive program to rehabilitate foreclosed homes. All of these initiatives are vital to stabilizing and growing the adjacent residential neighborhoods. There is a lot that can be learned from the success of organizations like Midtown Inc,” he said.
As the housing market is beginning to stabilize in the greater downtown neighborhoods (Midtown, downtown, Lafayette Park, Corktown) and many of the historic neighborhoods (Indian Village, Rosedale Park, Palmer Woods, Golf Club District, Sherwood Forest, University District), demand is growing while inventory is low, causing values to rise.
“For people that want to make a difference, there are endless opportunities to get involved with a strong support system that allows people to do things here that would not be possible in other major cities,” said Black. “National trends are changing in favor of city living. More people are gravitating to walkable mixed-use neighborhoods. Detroit is starting to benefit from this trend as more people are choosing to relocate from suburban communities to the city. A large percentage of the buyers we work with are suburbanites wanting to relocate to Detroit.”
Black has quickly proved to be a rising star in Detroit real estate, achieving success at all levels and racking up both local and national accolades. He has been the recipient of several awards and honors. In 2010 he was recognized by Realtor® magazine as one of 30 up and coming realtors under 30 in the nation. Crain’s Detroit Business named him to their Dream Board of Directors. He received the Rising Star Award from Max Broock Realtors and was named to the first Crain’s Detroit Business 20 in Their 20s list.
“Right now I’m working on the Willys Overland Lofts. City Living Detroit is in charge of the sales and marketing for this project. The development was the last new developments to launch when the housing market crashed in 2008. The first few years were difficult because of the uncertainty with the economy. Within the last 12 months we have seen a significant increase in sales with 14 units going under contract within this period, priced from $190,000 to $540,000. Many of our buyers are downsizing from large suburban homes and like the vibrancy that this prime Midtown location offers.”