Chris Ilitch, Dan Gilbert team up to pitch Detroit to developers

4,000 of nation's biggest real estate developers in Detroit

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®, Derick Hutchinson

DETROIT - This week, 4,000 of the nation's biggest real estate developers are in Detroit for a look at the city's recovery.

On Wednesday, Detroit's two biggest salesmen gave their pitch, sharing the spotlight on one stage.

Downtown Detroit's revival presents a unique moment in time, according to Little Caesars CEO Chris Ilitch, and Dan Gilbert, the founder of Quicken Loans and Rock Ventures, backed him up. They told the real estate investment world that there's room in Detroit for more than just them.

The Urban Land Institute's mission is to build thriving communities through responsible land use. They know the Ilitch and Gilbert names. Ilitch introduced his mother, Marian Ilitch, during the event, and credited her and his late father with helping to keep Detroit's heart beating when everyone else thought it was dead.

"We're a city who has gone through a cycle of hardship and emerged battle-tested and tougher than before," Chris Ilitch said. "We've kept our authenticity and grit through it all."

The ULI crowd knows opportunity when it sees it, which is what Gilbert invited it to do. He told the audience about a drive he took with his 12-year-old son recently, much like he did with his grandfather.

"When I was pointing to things, I wasn't using the word, 'Used to,'" Gilbert said. "I was using the word, "Going to.' There's going to be a building over there and a big one over there, and there's going to be that."

Ilitch was proud to tell the audience about Michigan's comeback, announcing the brain drain is over.

"In the last four years, not only have we started keeping them, but now we are attracting more than we graduate on an annual basis," Ilitch said. "These kids are staying, seeing Detroit as a great urban opportunity."

Ilitch and Gilbert told the crowd how to do business in Detroit and invited the group to do business here soon.

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