To those native to southeast Michigan, Detroit’s economic and developmental woes are as consistent and regular as the seasons. Numerous projects: the casinos, Ford Field and Comerica Park to name a few – have been heralded by city leaders as the next crucial step in Detroit’s evolution from failing city to Midwestern jewel. So far, all have missed the mark to a certain degree, providing revitalization to only small pockets of the city, while failing on a more symbolic level of providing potential investors with an example of profitable investment in the Motor City.
The restoration of the Book Cadillac Hotel on Washington Boulevard, one of the more troubled spots in Detroit, is a significant step toward this end. The government and the investment company, Historic Hospitality Investments LLC should be commended for their cooperation in developing this section of Detroit. This restoration is significant because unlike sports and gaming, this will be a labor of trust on behalf of the Texas-based business willing to put its own money on the line. It will serve as a profound statement that Detroit is once again worthy of private investment, something that 10 ballparks could not provide.
This news comes in no small part due to the federal assistance that is an integral part of the plan. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development must first expand Detroit’s empowerment zone to include the hotel in order to give the project the battery of subsidies and tax breaks investors are counting on to ensure profit and sustainability. Without recent legislation, the Community Renewal Tax Relief Act of 2000, this project would be without nearly $50 million dollars, which is critical to its success. These federal funds set an interesting and potentially beneficial precedent for investors and could be an important part of the slow but vital process of economic revitalization in Detroit.
Most importantly, it is essential that business and the government come to realize the city’s dozens of abandoned are an opportunity, not a liability. This project could mark an important watershed concerning the strategy of the city toward abandoned landmarks like the hotel. In the past, the knee jerk response by the city has been to demolish, an expensive process that wastes the potential of buildings like the Book Cadillac. Detroit has a number of beautiful Art Deco buildings, which should be resorted to serve as beautiful and functional examples of eras gone by.
This unique mix of private and federal funds, provides for real optimism that Detroit is by no means a lost cause. Detroit has no shortage of buildings; just a shortage of people willing to bank on their profitability. This recent approach seems to bolster arguments for their improvement, rather than their destruction. Only through cooperation will federal expenditures and private risk come to a level acceptable for both parties, to the betterment of Detroit and its citizens.