Economy
1:47 pm
Tue July 9, 2013

Who owns downtown Detroit?

If you're in Detroit, and you drive south down Woodward from Midtown to downtown, you’ll see things that weren’t there four years ago: new developments, pop-up businesses, more people, a new demographic, a Whole Foods, urban gardens, etc.

While the city of Detroit continues to face a number of adversities, the downtown area and Midtown have undergone drastic change in the last few years.

But even with the recent developments, there are still a slew of vacant buildings in the downtown/Midtown area.

Three men in particular own a number of buildings and properties downtown. They are Dan Gilbert , Michael Ilitch, and Manuel "Matty" Moroun.

Take a look at the map below to see what properties they own (Ilitch, red markers - Gilbert, blue markers - Moroun - purple polygon):

Other than landownership, these three men have another thing in common: they're all billionaires.

Gilbert owns Quicken Loans and has invested millions in projects in downtown Detroit.

Ilitch is the owner of Little Caesars Pizza, the Detroit Red Wings, and the Tigers. His development company recently received the approval to begin developing a new Red Wings Arena.

And Moroun – an infamously divisive figure in Detroit – owns the Ambassador Bridge and the Central Union Station.

In any situation where one individual holds a lot of land, there is speculation that their intentions are not entirely well-meaning.

In the case of Moroun, some of the land he holds in southwest Detroit will be needed for construction of the new bridge to Windsor. If he is unwilling to sell – or difficult to negotiate with –  this complicates the construction of the new bridge (which Moroun vehemently opposes).  

At the same time, Ilitch and Gilbert are leading projects that have the potential to give Detroit’s downtown a much needed economic boost.

The next two years are likely to bring more drastic change to the map above. It will be interesting to see how redevelopment changes downtown Detroit and whether or not this change reaches the communities and neighborhoods beyond.

-Julia Field, Michigan Radio Newsroom

*Map compiled based on data from the Wayne County Register of Deeds, John Gallagher's map in the Detroit Free Press, and the Detroit New's interactive map of private property ownership.