Detroit’s Economic Development Is the Comeback America's Been Waiting For

Photo from Life of Pix

Photo from Life of Pix

The word "renaissance" is used often in Detroit. It fits nicely with the city's motto: "We hope for better things; it will rise from the ashes." Judging by the good things in the past few years, the renaissance is real. Those who doubt it should look again: at the new businesses, the events, the crowds around the city, and most importantly, at the activity trickling back into the city's residential neighborhoods, block by block. Change is afoot, and this time everybody can benefit.

Detroit Deal Aims to Tackle Blight, Add Jobs

Photo from Spackman Mossop Michaels

Photo from Spackman Mossop Michaels

Dana Morris has lived in Detroit’s Fitzgerald neighborhood off and on her entire life, and she’s watched her block on Prairie Street deal with many of the same problems faced by other disinvested areas of the city.

Over the years, Morris and her neighbors (many are relatives) have kept up the block: mowing the empty side lots every spring so kids have a safe place to play, pushing the city to haul out trash so the raccoons don’t take up residence on their front porches, advocating for safety improvements like a traffic light for a busy intersection nearby.

Now, Morris, an active member of the Prairie Street Block Club, and those residents are working to make sure their voices are heard as the city proceeds with an ambitious revitalization effort in Fitzgerald.

Making Over Detroit, Street by Street

Three years ago, Atkinson Street became a test case for a pair of successful millennials who wanted to see how much change they could create on one Detroit street by purchasing blighted homes and renovating them. Their plan to focus on one street appears to be working and now city officials believe the pair’s work on Atkinson Street is a model that can be used to revive many Detroit neighborhoods.

Three years ago, Atkinson Street became a test case for a pair of successful millennials who wanted to see how much change they could create on one Detroit street by purchasing blighted homes and renovating them.

Their plan to focus on one street appears to be working and now city officials believe the pair’s work on Atkinson Street is a model that can be used to revive many Detroit neighborhoods.

David Alade, 29 - Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Century Partners

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Two years ago, David Alade was building a comfortable career in New York City as an investment banker at Credit Suisse Securities LLC.

The 29-year-old Queens native was managing asset transactions in the automotive, equipment, student loan and credit card sectors.

Now, he's managing the rehabilitation of historic and dilapidated homes in Detroit.

 

These Entrepreneurs Are Rebuilding Detroit One House at a Time

What do you hope for Detroit in 20 years? Colom: I think we’ll see some diverse neighborhoods filled with people biking around. I think we’ll see some young children living in the neighborhoods, because once they resolve the state control of the public education system, a lot of innovative thinking will come here like it went to New Orleans. I think you’ll see interracial neighborhoods, which will be so beautiful for Detroit. Alade: People usually think of developers as the Donald Trumps, the Dan Gilberts—very well-capitalized, older guys. What I hope is that we’re able to create this new legacy for what a developer looks like. If I can play a role in shaping or changing what a developer is traditionally supposed to look like and encouraging and thinking about ways to build generational wealth, I will consider that a huge accomplishment.

What do you hope for Detroit in 20 years?

Colom: I think we’ll see some diverse neighborhoods filled with people biking around. I think we’ll see some young children living in the neighborhoods, because once they resolve the state control of the public education system, a lot of innovative thinking will come here like it went to New Orleans. I think you’ll see interracial neighborhoods, which will be so beautiful for Detroit.

Alade: People usually think of developers as the Donald Trumps, the Dan Gilberts—very well-capitalized, older guys. What I hope is that we’re able to create this new legacy for what a developer looks like. If I can play a role in shaping or changing what a developer is traditionally supposed to look like and encouraging and thinking about ways to build generational wealth, I will consider that a huge accomplishment.

Two developers create potential model for rebuilding Detroit neighborhoods

When we talk about investment in Detroit, the likes of Dan Gilbert or Christopher Ilitch come to mind. Certainly Gilbert has led the way in buying downtown buildings, reshaping the look of downtown Detroit.  But today, we're going to look at investment in Detroit's neighborhoods. Andrew Colom and David Alade both gave up jobs to move to Detroit and launch an investment company called Century Partners.  Their idea was to invest in Detroit's neighborhoods, and to close the wealth disparity gap by helping people invest in the rehabilitation of their neighborhoods.  Colom and Alade joined us today to talk about why they came to Detroit and what they hope to accomplish through Century Partners.

When we talk about investment in Detroit, the likes of Dan Gilbert or Christopher Ilitch come to mind. Certainly Gilbert has led the way in buying downtown buildings, reshaping the look of downtown Detroit. 

But today, we're going to look at investment in Detroit's neighborhoods.

Andrew Colom and David Alade both gave up jobs to move to Detroit and launch an investment company called Century Partners. 

Their idea was to invest in Detroit's neighborhoods, and to close the wealth disparity gap by helping people invest in the rehabilitation of their neighborhoods. 

Colom and Alade joined us today to talk about why they came to Detroit and what they hope to accomplish through Century Partners.

Meet Two Men Who Are Helping Rebuild Detroit, One House At A Time

Andrew Colom, 33, and David Alade, 29, ditched jobs in real estate and banking to start Century Partners, a development firm aimed at revitalizing neighborhoods in the Motor City. 

Andrew Colom, 33, and David Alade, 29, ditched jobs in real estate and banking to start Century Partners, a development firm aimed at revitalizing neighborhoods in the Motor City. 

Interview with Fox Morning News

WJBK) - Detroit's economic climate is changing for the better, and one area we're keeping our eyes on to hopefully see more growth, too, is the neighborhoods.

What if everyday people could own equity in their neighborhood's resurgence? With this new business model, a development company is trying to share the wealth.

David Alade and his cofounder Andrew Colom both used to live in New York City, where they saw neighborhoods gentrify, leaving some residents behind. Detroit, they realized, could be different. During the housing crisis, when it was possible to buy a house for $1,000, many people saved neighboring homes or old family houses at foreclosure sales. Now, as real estate slowly picks up in the area again, some developers offer cash for those houses. Century Partners realized they could also offer equity.

Click here to watch the interview.

Smithsonian Magazine

In Detroit, many of the brick mansions built in the boom days of the auto industry have fallen into neglect and disrepair. Even just a few blocks from the construction site for the new Red Wings stadium, houses are gutted and crumbling. But in those rundown historic homes, Andrew Colom and David Alade, two college friends with an interest in urban planning and social justice, saw an opportunity.

Alade who was working on Wall Street had seen renters priced out of the neighborhood where he grew up in Jamaica, Queens. Colom, who has worked in real estate in Mississippi, thought that more equitable urban development could be a way to revitalize communities. Two years ago, the two Columbia University graduates decided that they would renovate houses, turn them into affordable housing and shake up the traditional housing model in the process.

Click here to read more.

Fast Company: As Detroit Is Revitalized, A Startup Developer Is Sharing Profits With Long-Time Residents

When developers fixed up a vacant house on Detroit's historic Atkinson Street—refinishing the hardwood floors, adding stainless steel appliances, and bringing back the beauty of the classic brick home so it could be rented—some of the neighbors made a cut of those profits, too.

In a new business model, the development company behind the renovation is trying to share the wealth with long-term community members as home values rise around them.

"We have a unique environment where we can bring resources to a community, we can enhance it, we can enrich it, and the people who benefit naturally are those who stood by the city in the worst of times," says David Alade, co-founder of the startup development company Century Partners.

Click here to read more.

Next City: Buying a Share of Detroit’s Revitalization

Andrew Colom and David Alade believe that longtime Detroiters should profit from the revitalization of their city. And they don’t mean that as a metaphor.

These two men are old friends who moved to Detroit in 2015 to launch Century Partners, an unusually holistic housing development company. Colom came from Mississippi, where he pursued writing and film while running a real estate company in his hometown. Alade came from New York City, where he worked as an investment banker at Barclays Capital and Credit Suisse. They met when they were students at Columbia University, and while it took years of “what if” conversations, they finally found themselves in Detroit, going all-in with a new model of getting things done.

Click here to read more.

Financial Times: Hope for a new city amid Detroit's blight

David Alade and Andrew Colom moved to Detroit from their respective homes of New York and Mississippi this year to take a risk on the city’s uncertain future. They buy, renovate and rent out houses in a historic neighbourhood close to the site of the 1967 race riots, and where both Henry Ford and Motown Records label founder Berry Gordy Jr owned mansions.

Sellers have the option of buying a stake in the property fund set up by Mr Alade and Mr Colom. This way, they argue, the local community can be a part of the neighbourhood’s revival.

“Everyone is watching Detroit and there is an opportunity to do something really special in a different way,” says Mr Alade, a former Wall Street banker.

Mr Alade, Mr Colom and architect Steve Harris, who grew up in the neighbourhood, are the kind of investors the city needs to bring money and jobs in to the community

Click here to read more (there is a paywall).