Apr 30, 2024 - Economy

NFL Draft puts spotlight on Detroit's big comeback

A packed crowd at the first round of the NFL Draft in downtown Detroit last week.

A packed crowd at the first round of the NFL Draft in downtown Detroit last week. Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

A confluence of powerful forces — including major real estate investment and more savvy fiscal management — is putting Detroit back on the map more than a decade after its historic bankruptcy.

Why it matters: The city is shining in the national spotlight after an attendance record-shattering stint as host of the NFL Draft highlighted a drastic downtown revitalization.

Driving the news: Detroit hosted more than 775,000 downtown last week, beating the previous NFL Draft record (600,000) set by Nashville in 2019.

  • The city's unique draft threaded through its downtown core to show off new construction and restored historic buildings — instead of the blighted buildings that brought the city a reputation for "ruin porn."
  • Detroit leaders said yesterday that they expect the event's success to change the nation's perception of the city, drawing in more events and businesses to capitalize on its energy.

Zoom in: The city devastated by decades of population loss is achieving new milestones in its recent revitalization efforts...

  • The city's attracted heavy real estate development — incoming or underway — from Ford and two Detroit-born billionaires: Stephen Ross and Dan Gilbert, the majority owner of Rocket Mortgage.
  • In Detroit, a majority-Black city, the net housing wealth of Black homeowners grew by $2.8 billion (80%) between 2014 and 2022, a recent study found.
  • In March, it achieved an investment-grade credit rating for the first time in 15 years, showing strong financial health.

Reality check: The "comeback" narrative has also drawn questions from some residents and activists around who truly benefits from new investment.

  • Tax incentives for billionaires draw both praise and protest in a city that is still struggling with poverty and inequities.
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