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Finney, Michael

There’s a new economic development trend happing across America, and Detroit is leading the way.

Office space, residential buildings, and mixed-use retail are converging with startups, business incubators, mass transit and university-based research to form “urban innovation districts,” areas that are quickly becoming the new centers of urban economies.

According to a report by Washington, D.C.-based think tank Brookings Institution, Detroit is ahead of the pack and on the right course.

This is a defining moment in the economic reinvention of Detroit. Investors and those doing business — or thinking about investing or locating — in Detroit should be encouraged about the possibilities of a city and state on the rise.

Development along Detroit’s “main street,” Woodward Avenue, has made the 3.3-mile corridor a model urban innovation district.

Since 2011, the State of Michigan, through economic development programs administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, has allocated $86 million in strategic investments in a blend of new projects along Woodward from the New Center area to the north through Midtown (the home of Wayne State University) to the entertainment/stadium district and central downtown business district.

In turn, these projects have generated $507 million in private investment and are projected to bring 2,434 jobs to the district.

Meanwhile, the ongoing development of Wayne State University, Detroit Medical Center and global corporations such as Quicken Loans have served to anchor the district.

And plans are moving forward for what Gov. Snyder called “another major destination point along Woodward,” a $650-million new events center (and home for the Detroit Red Wings) creating another major destination point for residents and visitors.

The walkable development will include several parking structures with 25,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, plus 140,000 square feet of mixed office and retail development. The Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) last July approved an inducement resolution for issuance of $450 million in private activity bonds to finance construction.

Tying it all together, a new M-1 Rail line, an 11-stop electric-battery transit line, will carry residents and visitors from shopping districts to the entertainment and sports hub to the central business district and riverfront. The stops were strategically selected to connect with city and regional bus routes, the Detroit People Mover, Megabus and Amtrak.

The street car system is considered the long-sought economic catalyst for the Woodward corridor with a multiplier effect from the mass transit generating as much as $2 billion, according to M-1 Rail, a nonprofit organization formed in 2007 to lead the design, construction, and future operation of a 3.3-mile circulating streetcar along Woodward Avenue between Larned Street and West Grand Boulevard.

With a $10-million loan approved by the MSF in March, the M-1 Rail is on track to connect Downtown Detroit to Midtown, and possibly the initial piece of a regional transit strategy to link the city of Detroit with the suburbs.

There have been many positive things happening in the city for quite some time. These most recent commitments are further indication of the level of public and private support for Detroit and its resurgence.

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