LiveWork Detroit, an event sponsored by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, brought nearly 250 students from 20 universities to downtown Detroit last Friday to learn more about what’s to love about living in the Motor City.
The tour kicked off at the lovely Fillmore Theater, where young visitors were addressed by a variety of speakers – from Shannon Homes, Chief of Staff for Mayor Bing, to Jennifer Berkemeier, Special Events Director of the Fillmore. The overall theme was that young people who want to make their mark have a wide-open playing field and lots of community support in up-and-coming Detroit.
In light of Detroit’s recent loss of population, Bryan Barnhill, a former DPS student and recent Harvard grad who now works as an aid to the mayor, brought up the historical Detroit fire of 1805. He said the people of Detroit probably had a very low census that year, too. But residents rebuilt the city to one of the most important in the nation, which is a testament to the character of Detroiters and proof the city will rise again. Visitors were also enlightened to many unknowns about Detroit — for instance, Detroit is home to the second largest theater district in the nation, with over 13,000 theater seats in a 2-block radius. And downtown has over 130 bars and restaurants in its one square mile. And the incredible affordability of living right in the middle of it.
Students and visitors then boarded five buses for a whirlwind tour of the city, given by the knowledgeable guides at Inside Detroit.
Buses zipped around town, stopping at highlights like the gorgeous art deco Guardian Building, Belle Isle park, Eastern Market, Cork Town, The Heidelberg Project, and hot spots of Midtown, like the Avalon bakery.
During lunchtime, tour groups were treated to docent-led tours at the world-class Detroit Institute of Arts in their impressive Beaux-Arts building in the heart of Midtown. After tours, over sandwiches in the sunny Kresge Courtyard of the museum, they heard a litany of ongoing improvements and plans enhancing the lives of Midtown residents from University Cultural Center Association President Sue Mosey, an influential Midtown activist.
At the end of the eventful day, the tour concluded in the state-of-the-art Compuware building, with inspirational speeches about the inevitable progress of Detroit from business leaders like Dan Gilbert, chairman of Quicken Loans, and Peter Karmanos, CEO of Compuware Corporation. Gilbert emphasized the growing tech jobs scene in Detroit, envisioning a future where Woodward Avenue would be known as “Webward,” rivaling Silicon Valley for innovative tech jobs.
At the evening reception, students were provided with opportunities to network with world-class companies based in downtown Detroit such as Compuware, Quicken Loans, Digitas, Marketing Associates and the law firm of Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn. They also took tours of Quicken Loans’ vibrant offices, a great example of the progressive work environments downtown.
The result of the tours? Many students remarked about the wide difference between their previous assumptions and their new-found realizations. Even at the end of a long day of touring, students were abuzz with excitement about all they had learned about Detroit. One student tweeted via the micro-blogging service Twitter, “My mentality has been forever changed.”