Tech boom helping Detroit rebound after bankruptcy


by Dan Rafter

Real estate executives working in the Detroit market say that the city has steadily rebounded since its bankruptcy filing in 2013.

These execs say that investors are again putting money into the city. Young people are moving into apartment buildings in the heart of downtown. And construction cranes are returning.

John Latessa, senior managing director in the Southfield, Mich., office of CBRE, said that the city is even attracting interest from investors outside the United States, with investment dollars flowing into Detroit from China, Germany, Canada and other corners of the globe.

“You go through a bankruptcy, and that is harsh,” Latessa said. “But you are now at ground zero. Arguably there is nothing to do but go up. A lot of investors are realizing that there are good deals to be had in Detroit.”

You can point, too, to technology as one of the reasons for the improved commercial real estate activity in Detroit since the city declared bankruptcy.

Many Midwest markets are attracting their share of tech-based companies. But Detroit is one of the few Midwest cities listed as a top-34 high-tech market in the United States by JLL in its newly released 2014 High-Technology Office Outlook.

JLL ranked Detroit as the 31st best high-tech market in the country. Other Midwest cities on the list are Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Indianapolis.

JLL researchers chose the cities on the list based on such metrics as wage growth, intellectual capital and venture funding. Researchers also looked at the amenities that the cities offered.

How did Detroit make the list? The auto industry is a key driver behind technology growth. And the auto industry, which is still big in the Detroit market, is experimenting with new technology, everything from hybrid vehicles to self-driving cars.

At the same time, several high-tech companies have moved into the Detroit market, tech players such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Twitter.

The tech report is more good news for a city that, last year, didn’t have much. But as Latessa says, there is new momentum in Detroit. The post-bankruptcy city has one thing that Detroit had long lacked: hope.

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