DETROIT (WWJ) Dan Gilbert, mortgage lender turned downtown Detroit booster, now owns 50 buildings in the area — so how much time does he spend checking out his own pieces of the skyline?
“I’ve never really stopped and looked up and said ‘that’s cool,'” Gilbert told WWJ’s Sandra McNeill at an Urban Land Institute event where Gilbert was given an award for his investments in Detroit.
According to the Land Institute, Gilbert is being recognized for “leading the transformation of a great American city through real estate investments, placemaking initiatives, and the relocation of many of his businesses and employees to downtown Detroit.”
Gilbert is too busy to slow down and look up, he says. He spends his days buying, renovating, and pitching other businesses on the benefits of coming to Detroit
Some treat him like a philanthropist, but Gilbert himself admits that’s not what drives him.
As Gilbert was given the Urban Land Institute’s Placemaker Award last night at the Westin Book Cadillac, he told suburban businesses that they might regret not putting up stakes in Detroit, like he has.
“It’s not a charity case, or an altruistic thing only, maybe that was a little bit of the kind of initial impetus, but you’re crazy not to come because it’s great for businesses if you’re a certain kind of business,” Gilbert told McNeill.
The former president of the Urban Land Institute, Robin Boyle, told McNeill Gilbert’s investment in Midtown has helped him overcome the history of Rock Financial, Gilbert’s company that was part of the sub-prime mortgage controversy, and was later reborn as Quicken Loans.
“Is there a controversy over how he earned his money? Yes. Everybody knows that he has been involved in the mortgage industry,” Boyle said. “But I think the way in which he’s developed and worked in the city has overcome that.”
And the news Gilbert is delivering about the benefits of Detroit investment is getting out. Gilbert said on a recent tour of midtown — one thing stood out. All the new revitalization taking place that isn’t his — is from investors out of state.
But would the suburbanite ever actually pull up personal stakes and move to the city?
When asked if he would move to Detroit, Gilbert said he’d consider a second home there, but only if he could find the right condo.