DETROIT - Billionaire businessman Dan Gilbert is speaking candidly with Local 4’s Evrod Cassimy about all things Detroit. The Quicken Loans founder is constantly making headlines for revitalizing downtown.
From the Q Line, to Microsoft moving its headquarters to Downtown Detroit, to the new Book Tower, all of his efforts to revitalize the city seem to be centered in one location, but that's not all true.
"They're saying, 'Oh, Dan Gilbert is just here to gentrify Detroit.' What would you say to those people?" asked Local 4’s Evrod Cassimy.
"I mean, you just have to look at those ... Make sure you have all the evidence of what we're doing," Gilbert said.
It's evidence that's rarely been talked about until now. His family of companies extends its efforts into the neighborhoods, donating more than $6 million to improving Detroit public parks.
"Whether it's Downtown, or in the neighborhoods, I'm a big believer in that," Gilbert said. "If you don't give human beings some park and some space, I think that sort of collapses on itself."
If you've noticed beautiful artwork along businesses throughout the city, it's all part of his Small Business Murals Project. The project is responsible for artwork on buildings like the ones on Mack Avenue, Grand River and Schaeffer Highway.
In 2014, he chaired Detroit's Blight Removal Task Force. Since then, he developed the Rehabbed and Ready Program, committing $5 million from Quicken Loans. Under the program, 40 homes were rehabbed like one on Ohio Street in Detroit's Bagley neighborhood.
"Blight is a cancer," Gilbert said. "It grows. You have to stop that first. If you don't stop that -- cut the cancer out before you treat the patient."
As the multi-million dollar Q Line makes its way up and down a near three-mile stretch of Woodward Avenue, it stops there and out of reach for much of the city of Detroit. Gilbert insists it's just the beginning to fixing Detroit's public transit issues.
"Would you anticipate, or are there any plans to extend it? Because I know a lot of people talk about the fact that it services downtown. But in terms of going out into the neighborhoods?" Evrod asked.
"We have to prove to Washington that we can get our act together," Gilbert said. "Their idea was a private line, publicly raise private money, which we did. If we get an RTA funded, Regional Transportation Authority, now we've got proof with the Q and we have an RTA, and now you go to Washington and make a formal press for regional transportation funding."
This must be done now, after Metro Detroiters rejected an RTA millage in Oakland and Macomb counties last November.
"You cannot have an urban core and have a moat around Downtown and think that's going to thrive and survive without the neighborhoods surviving, and it can't be the opposite, either," Gilbert said
"(You’re the) largest minority employer here in the city of Detroit. What does that mean to you?" Evrod asked.
"That's a big deal to us," Gilbert said. "It's better for business to have diversity, so we made a strong effort to make sure our employment represented, or at least significantly represented, what Detroit looks like."
As his family of companies continues to grow and help improve areas across the entire city, Gilbert's not taking all the credit.
"Would you consider yourself Detroit's savior?" Evrod asked.
"No, because no one person, and no one company, I don't care if you're us or General Motors or the Illitch's, it's impossible," Gilbert said. "It's got to be community. It's got to be the neighborhoods. It's got to be the unions. It's got to be council, the mayor, governor, business community, the citizens of Detroit. All we want to see is the best Detroit possible. We can't have the best Detroit unless the neighborhoods and the city are growing together."
Evrod asked Gilbert why we haven't heard much about the work he's done outside of downtown. He said as an organization, they haven't done a good job of telling that story and didn't want to brag. Now, he's happy to share the full story.
You can watch Evrod's full story in the video posted above.
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