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Leaders tout Downtown Detroit's strong comeback after COVID

Leaders tout Downtown Detroit's strong comeback after COVID
Leaders tout Downtown Detroit's strong comeback after COVID 01:57
Eric Larson CEO of the Downtown Detroit Partnership speaking at the 2023 Detroit Policy Conference Andres Gutierrez/CBS Detroit

(CBS DETROIT) – According to business and city leaders, Downtown Detroit is making a strong comeback out of the pandemic.

Plans to keep the momentum going were a key topic at the annual Detroit Policy Conference at Motor City Casino Tuesday.

"The downtown here remains challenged. It does,"  said Richard Florida, an urbanist and founder of the Creative Class Group.

But Florida isn't worried about Downtown Detroit's future. He believes the pandemic accelerated a shift already underway.

"What your downtown is becoming, it's not a central business district. It's a central connectivity bit district where people come to connect–700,000 members of the creative class more than San Francisco," Florida said. 

Meaning the days of packing workers into office buildings Monday through Friday are over, and remote work is here to stay. 

"Commutes are relatively long. So, people say I don't want to endure that commute. It's not that they don't like to go to work. They don't like to commute. So I'll stay at home a little bit longer," Florida said. 

More so than ever before. 

The downtown area saw a 68% drop in the number of workers from more than 56,000 in October 2019 to just over 18,000 this past October.

"What I think we need to do is continue to attract new office, new opportunities, and new technology that it really is continuing to create a resilient and sustained environment," said Eric Larson, CEO of the Downtown Detroit Partnership.

Although there are fewer people in offices, there are more visitors. 

"As so when people then feel like this is our downtown. They start to come more. They start to visit more. They start to have more activities," said Antoine Bryant, Director of Planning and Development for the City of Detroit.

Data presented at the conference shows hotel occupancy levels are back up.

"You can't think of an amazing city experience without having an amazing downtown experience," Michigan Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist said. 

The state plans to keep it that way by continuing to invest in infrastructure like the QLine and event spaces like Huntington Place.

"What's become clear here is that it's important that every part of our city can advance together," Gilchrist said. 

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