Gilbert & Ilitch build their empires in Downtown Detroit

Aug 18, 2014

Credit Ian Freimuth / Flickr

Recent years have seen a number of corporate heavyweights do their part to revitalize Detroit. One of many examples: Henry Ford II powered the Renaissance Center from blueprints to skyscrapers towering over the Riverfront.

But there are two names that stand well above all the others: the names of Ilitch and Gilbert.

Detroit Free Press Business writer John Gallagher explored the impact of Mike Ilitch and his family and of Dan Gilbert in a recent front-page story entitled "One downtown, two empires: Mike Ilitch and Dan Gilbert reshape Detroit."

Dan Gilbert owns several dozen buildings in the greater downtown area, including some skyscrapers. The Ilitch family plan to redevelop the entire Arena District.

“The downtown has become ‘Gilbertville’ and the area just north of downtown is on its way to becoming ‘Ilitchville,’” said Gallagher.

“I have not seen any other two major corporate leaders accumulate as large a percentage of land as have Dan Gilbert and the Ilitch Organization,” said John Mogk, a law professor at Wayne State University. He teaches a course on Property, Energy, Land Use and Urban Development.

John Mogk said that restoring downtown could help the city of Detroit in the long run.

“A revitalized downtown will begin to attract investment from outside the city, will begin to attract businesses to consider moving into the city, and so it certainly is a place to start,” Mogk said.

*Listen to the full interview with John Gallagher and John Mogk above.