CRE V Michigan

Colliers' Swatsenbarg: CRE market in Detroit still firmly in boom mode

Colliers' Swatsenbarg: CRE market in Detroit still in boom mode,ph01
Ford’s plans for its Corktown Campus shoud provide a significant boost to Detroit.

How does Barry Swatsenbarg describe the activity taking place in downtown Detroit today? He chooses one word, “phenomenal.”

Swatsenbarg, executive vice president with the Southfield, Michigan, office of Colliers International, said that the amount of commercial real estate activity in the center of Detroit has reached a new height, one that is bringing with it both excitement and hope.

“Both in my life and my professional career in commercial real estate, we have never had a downtown this vibrant,” Swatsenbarg said. “It seems like every year, it gets better and better. To see that change, and to have such a viable CBD, is fantastic.”

Several of the biggest names in Detroit commercial real estate will be speaking about the city’s office sector – and looking at Detroit’s other commercial sectors – during the fifth annual Detroit Commercial Real Estate Summit being held by REjournals.com and Midwest Real Estate News at the Westin Southfield Detroit on Sept. 6.

These experts will spend plenty of time discussing the future of downtown Detroit and the impressive growth that’s happened there. And you can bet that some of this talk will focus on the continuing strength of the office market in the CBD.

What is happening in downtown Detroit today? Swatsenbarg said that new retailers and restaurants are opening in the city’s urban core. New hotels are springing up to welcome both leisure and business travelers. Companies are moving from the suburbs to downtown or are opening additional offices in the center of Detroit.

The sports scene here is booming, too, as Detroit remains the only U.S. city that has all of its major professional sports team clustered in its downtown.

This combination has resulted in a downtown Detroit that is lively, one that attracts both tourists and locals.

The best news of all? Detroit’s downtown resurgence is showing no signs of slowing.

Swatsenbarg gives much of the credit for this resurgence to Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans and the Rock Family of Companies. This makes sense: Gilbert has invested heavily in the center of Detroit. His investments have acted as the catalyst boosting the city’s fortunes.

“What Dan Gilbert has done has been amazing,” Swatsenbarg said. “He has single-handedly hit the fast-forward button on the city by 40 years.”

Several of the biggest names in Detroit commercial real estate will be speaking about the city’s office sector – and looking at Detroit’s other commercial sectors – during the fifth annual Detroit Commercial Real Estate Summit being held by REjournals.com and Midwest Real Estate News at the Westin Southfield Detroit on Sept. 6.

These experts will spend plenty of time discussing the future of downtown Detroit and the impressive growth that’s happened there. And you can bet that some of this talk will focus on the continuing strength of the office market in the CBD.

Swatsenbarg said that downtown Detroit is attracting visitors of all kind. But the area is especially appealing to younger adults, he said.

“The younger generation wants to do things with their friends. The work/live/play location is very appealing to them,” Swatsenbarg said. “Mature markets have had that for some time. Markets like Chicago and New York City have these areas where you can live, work and play. Detroit didn’t have that prior to this Renaissance.”

The downtown surge has led to steady growth in the Detroit office market, too. Swatsenbarg said that employers today want to open locations in the center of the city. Developers such as Bedrock and Redico have already made significant progress in transforming many of Detroit’s older, outmoded office spaces into modern areas that appeal to today’s workers and employees.

This doesn’t mean, though, that there isn’t a growing need for both new and renovated office spaces in Detroit.

“In the past, office tenants would look at Southfield, Troy, Farmington Hills and maybe Royal Oak,” Swatsenbarg said. “Now that same tenant is looking at downtown Detroit.”

And while the downtown office market remains strong, so does the urban multifamily sector. Swatsenbarg said that demand is increasing for new multifamily space in downtown and its surrounding areas.

Detroit’s downtown surge has spread to the Corktown neighborhood, where Ford is developing Michigan Central Station. Ford spent $90 million to acquire the former train station and plans to spend an additional $740 million to transform it and several nearby properties into a innovation campus of 1.2 million square feet.

Ford will work on autonomous and electric vehicles here and also work on urban mobility projects. The project, once finished in 2022, will bring about 2,500 Ford employees to Detroit’s Corktown neighbohrood.

“Detroit historically has not had much development,” Swatsenbarg said. “Now if you are doing a smaller development you might not make the news because so much is going on in downtown.”

Interested in learning more about Detroit’s CRE market, in downtown, its surrounding neighborhoods and across the suburbs? Then be sure to register for the Detroit CRE Summit here.