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Detroit’s biggest development stories of 2017

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Franklin Street in the near future?
Courtesy of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy

Development in Detroit picked up the pace in 2017, spreading out from downtown and Midtown and further into the East Riverfront, Islandview, New Center, and Fitzgerald. We saw big openings (the Foundation Hotel, the Qline, Little Caesars Arena), and big renovation plans (Book Tower, Packard Plant). Here are five stories from around the city that we followed throughout the year.

Fail Jail no more

At the start of 2017, we weren’t quite sure about the future of the partially-finished jail site at Gratiot and 375. Wayne County, at the time, intended on finishing it. We had seen Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores’ plans to build a soccer stadium at the site the year before. In early February, Gilbert’s Rock Ventures made a big offer to Wayne County: they’d build a jail for the county at another site and Rock Ventures would build a mixed-use development where the fail jail still stands. Throughout the year, details have been worked out and now there’s a land swap in place involving the city. As of now, it looks like Rock Ventures will get that land, but they won’t be building a soccer stadium. Wayne County, the City, and Rock Ventures should be finalizing on a deal soon.

East Riverfront Plan

If you attend development open houses and meetings, you know that attendees standing up and cheering isn’t the norm. But that’s what happened this spring when the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy revealed their long-term plans for the East Riverfront. What can we expect over the next five years? More greenways leading to the river, the area directly adjacent to the river will remain open to the public, and many old warehouses will be renovated and repurposed (so far, we’ve seen plans for one major building for residential, retail, and theater). It’s a bold plan and one that keeps one of our greatest assets for public use.

Hudson’s site takes shape

Ground finally broke this December on the empty city block where Hudson’s used to stand. The new development from Bedrock will bring an 800-foot tower with an observation deck, plus shopping and event space galore in the 11-story podium. The design changed quite a bit from its earlier renderings. The designs were quite curvy and swooped at first. Now, everything about it is quite angular, sparking a lot of debate from our commenters. But for the first time in a long time, a skyscraper is under construction in Detroit.

Early renderings
Rock Ventures
Renderings from earlier in the year
Courtesy of Bedrock
The latest rendering
Courtesy of Bedrock

Fitzgerald/Old Redford

This year, we saw more investment in Detroit’s neighborhoods. Specifically, the City announced two big initiatives in two neighborhoods. First, the Fitzgerald neighborhood will see the renovation of 115 homes for rent and for sale, the landscaping of many vacant lots around the neighborhood, and the creation of a new two-acre park. Later in the year, the City released an RFP for a revitalization plan in Old Redford. They’re looking for adaptive reuse plans for an old school, plus rehabbing and demo of dozens of vacant homes. Will we see more neighborhood revitalization plans like this in the near future?

Tiny houses

Three small single-story homes, colored blue, red, and white, sit in a row behind well-mowed lawns. Photo by Michelle Gerard

This may come as a surprise to Curbed readers, but one of our biggest stories of the year had to do with the tiniest houses. Tiny Homes Detroit, a program through Cass Community Social Services, opened its first six tiny houses for low-income residents. The program, which is funded through donations and built by volunteers, garnered international attention. More are currently under construction, and the group hopes to build at least 25 in the community, which is located off the Lodge north of Boston-Edison.

Honorable Mention: The bid for Amazon HQ2

Perhaps the most talked about news this year was the bid for a second headquarters for Amazon. Many cities across the U.S. and Canada sent in proposals to Amazon. Detroit isn’t seen as a favorite, but for once, regional leaders worked together on something. It made people think about what Detroit could offer for other businesses thinking of relocating. We recently found out more details about the plan; will any of it come to fruition? Could it lay the groundwork for developments in the coming years?

Which stories were you following this year or looking forward to in 2018? Our comments are open.