Economic Development and Travel & Tourism

Detroit looking to attract GR retailers

Developer of Little Caesars Arena and District Detroit will tout 180K square feet at ICSC show.

May 13, 2016
| By Pat Evans |
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(As seen on WZZM TV 13) There could be a little bit of Grand Rapids in Detroit before long.

With Little Caesars Arena and District Detroit well underway and slated to open in fall 2017, Olympia Development of Michigan is planning to make more than 180,000 square feet of retail space available at next weekend’s International Council of Shopping Centers’ RECon in Las Vegas.

The development is expected to attract national retailers, but Mike Atwell, vice president of leasing for Olympia, said developers want to see a focus on Detroit and Michigan retailers in the Woodward Square area.

Olympia and CBRE already have started reaching out to various Michigan-based retailers, but the leasing is still in early stages and nothing is ready to be announced, Atwell said.

He said some West Michigan companies have been contacted, but he encourages others that might be interested in an expansion to Detroit to contact DistrictDetroit.com. The website features a live feed of video as the arena is being built, and Atwell said inquiries will be fielded quickly.

The 180,000 square feet of space will be in the Woodward Square neighborhood, one of five neighborhoods that will comprise the 50-block District Detroit development and the closest in proximity to Little Caesars Arena, the future home of the Detroit Red Wings.

Olympia has partnered with CBRE to function as its retail leasing consultant through the development.

Together, the arena and five-neighborhood mixed-use development is expected to have a more than $1.2 billion economic impact for Detroit.

“There is a lot of positive news coming from Detroit, and it’s all true,” said Atwell. “We’re right in the middle of it and it’s extremely exciting. Detroit itself is in the midst of a historic comeback, and our project is a big part of that.”

Woodward Square will largely be comprised of food and beverage entertainment venues, Atwell said. The arena will attract thousands of spectators on a weekly basis, not just for hockey games but for concerts and other entertainment at the new arena.

District Detroit also includes Ford Field and Comerica Park, the respective homes of the Detroit Lions and Detroit Tigers, as well as six theaters. For that reason, Woodward Square’s proximity will work well for food, beverage, soft goods and nightclub outlets, Atwell said.

There are several Detroit and Michigan companies Atwell said Olympia has in mind for the development.

“We want the project to be very special to Detroit,” he said. “There will be some national retailers anyone will recognize, but we’re definitely paying close attention to that balance. We think we can create a unique collection of retailers to help create a wonderful and unique experience.”

Retail space from 1,600 square feet to 10,000 square feet will be available, Atwell said, and how those spaces fill out will dictate how many retailers will fit into the Woodward Square neighborhood. Other neighborhood phases will begin as the initial phases are wrapped up.

The first retailers are expected to be open by September 2017, in time to coincide with the puck drop on the Red Wings’ 2017-18 season, the team’s first in the new arena.

Events won’t be the only thing attracting patrons, Atwell said. District Detroit acts as a gap filler between Midtown and the Central Business District, which both have seen increased development over the past several years.

To the development’s north is Wayne State University’s main campus, the Detroit Medical Center and Henry Ford Hospital, all of which will offer retailers plenty of potential customers, Atwell said. Also to the north and breaking ground soon is the $50 million Wayne State Mike Illitch School of Business.

“We believe there will be a very nice range that should appeal to a lot of people, from high-energy clubs to family-oriented local restaurants,” Atwell said. “The really interesting part about this project is it helps create a walkable link in Detroit.”

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