Is Dan Gilbert Detroit’s New Superhero?

on December 16 | in Blog | by | with Comments Off on Is Dan Gilbert Detroit’s New Superhero?

DE­TROIT. The signs are every­where: “Op­por­tun­ity De­troit.” They hang from light posts, bill­boards, and buses, paid for by the most power­ful man in this city. He’s the cata­lyst for this city’s eco­nom­ic res­tor­a­tion, and some cit­izens are hail­ing him as the sa­vior of De­troit

And no, he’s not the new may­or.dan-gilbert

Dan Gil­bert doesn’t need a polit­ic­al title; elec­ted of­fice could hardly aug­ment his fin­an­cial in­flu­ence over De­troit. The founder and chair­man of Rock Ven­tures, an umbrella entity that in­cludes Quick­en Loans and scores of oth­er prop­er­ties, Gil­bert has con­sol­id­ated power in the re­gion in an as­ton­ish­ingly short time. First, he moved Quick­en Loans’ headquar­ters from the sub­urbs to down­town in Au­gust 2010. In the three-and-a-half years since, Gil­bert has es­tab­lished him­self as De­troit’s de facto CEO. He now con­trols more than 40 down­town prop­er­ties — cov­er­ing nearly 8 mil­lion square feet of real es­tate — and his com­pan­ies have shif­ted more than 12,000 em­ploy­ees in­to the city. To date, Gil­bert’s total in­vest­ment in De­troit nears $1.5 bil­lion. (For comparison, the city’s an­nu­al budget for 2013 was $1.12 bil­lion.)

 

More than just a CEO, Gil­bert has taken on out­size roles as De­troit’s chief boost­er, de­veloper, and now, se­cur­ity of­ficer. His com­pany squires out-of-town re­port­ers and pro­spect­ive busi­nesses on down­town tours, selling spe­cif­ic points of pro­gress and try­ing to frame De­troit as Amer­ica’s smartest urb­an in­vest­ment. He is re­cruit­ing new busi­nesses (more than 100 so far) and is evan­gel­ic­al about the im­port­ance of cre­at­ing spaces that draw foot traffic in down­town and midtown neigh­bor­hoods. And, in the ab­sence of a func­tion­ing, solvent loc­al gov­ern­ment, Gil­bert has taken it upon him­self to con­front safety con­cerns by in­stalling a state-of-the-art sur­veil­lance sys­tem down­town to sup­ple­ment an un­der­fun­ded and un­der­manned De­troit Po­lice De­part­ment. The ACLU says it dis­ap­proves of this giv­en the po­ten­tial pri­vacy con­cerns but says it cannot pre­vent busi­ness own­ers from mon­it­or­ing their own prop­er­ties.

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