“It’s a city center with a small-town feel.”
That’s the way the promotional arm of a Detroit development consortium describes the Motor City’s downtown. Many residents might not see their neighborhoods in that context, but a new program launched Monday aims to change that.
As part of an effort to attract more residents and rebuild Detroit’s core, five of the city’s key employers announced a joint initiative that provides employees with cash incentives to move downtown and maintain their homes. More than 16,000 employees from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, DTE Energy, Compuware, Quicken Loans and Strategic Staffing Solutions are eligible for the Live Downtown initiative.
Neighborhoods eligible for the program include Corktown, Downtown, Eastern Market, Lafayette Park and Midtown. Overall, approximately $4 million will be available over a five-year period. A variety of incentive plans are available, including $20,000 loans for new homeowners purchasing a primary residence and $2,500 for new renters. Existing homeowners can receive as much as $5,000 for exterior improvement projects of $10,000 or more.
“We support the idea of providing greater convenience for our employees, the attraction of new talented workers and the goal of revitalizing Detroit’s downtown,” DTE Energy vice president for corporate affairs Paul Hillegonds said in a written statement.
The program attempts to build on what has become one of Detroit’s few strengths amid a turbulent economy: Although the city’s overall population contracted by 25 percent in the past decade, according to census data, the number of college-educated residents under age 35 increased by 59 percent downtown. Earlier this month, The New York Times called the youth movement an “influx of socially aware hipsters and artists now roaming the streets of Detroit.”
The “Live Downtown” program is similar to the $1.2 million “Live Midtown” plan that launched in January and involved Wayne State University, the Detroit Medical Center and Henry Ford Health System. Both programs are coordinated by the Downtown Detroit Partnership.
“Live Downtown is a tremendous program that will enhance economic development and draw new residents who will add their ideas and voices to the ongoing transformation of our city,” DDP CEO David Blaskiweicz said in a written statement.