Rock Ventures, Dan Gilbert’s umbrella company that oversees nearly all of his efforts in downtown Detroit, announced this week that it will partner with D:Hive to help enliven downtown by drawing entrepreneurs and young professionals to the city. D:Hive, which functions as a welcome center/resource hub to new Detroit arrivals. Ryan Sullivan, Rock Ventures’ director of business development, says the partnership seemed like a natural fit, given that both parties are actively involved in trying to make Detroit a better place to live.
“D:Hive is very interesting because their vision is complementary to our vision and strategy to energize the Woodward Corridor,” Sullivan explains. “We said, ‘This could really be something.’”
One thing that especially intrigued Rock Ventures was D:Hive’s popular BUILD classes, which offer business and project planning to microentrepreneurs, usually of the brick-and-mortar retail variety. (April Boyle, D:Hive’s director of recruitment and internal talent, says they are currently accepting applications for the fall classes.)
Rock Ventures, which has more than 3 million square feet of downtown Detroit real estate under its control, has a bit of work to do before its properties become hot-selling destinations. Sullivan says it’s part of the company’s mission to introduce people to a part of the city that truly does seem to get a little better each week. Because of that, Rock Ventures started sending all of its summer interns—600 this year—over to D:Hive to learn more about Detroit. One imagines that if all goes well, Rock Ventures will begin recruiting BUILD graduates for some of its empty storefronts, especially given the success Bizdom—another Gilbert-backed entity—has had getting its tenants to set up shop in the Madison Building.
Boyle calls Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans “great supporters of ours,” who have already donated equipment and other in-kind services. “They’re trying to activate the business district and we’re trying to attract more retail to downtown by developing entrepreneurs,” Boyle adds. “We think it’s a perfect partnership.”
Sullivan says that by the end of the year, 5,500 employees of Rock Ventures/Quicken Loans companies will work downtown. That fulfills Gilbert’s promise to move parts of his companies from suburban Detroit to the heart of the city. Sure, Gilbert is a business man and Detroit is starting to look more like a decent gamble, but there’s no disputing that downtown has been enriched by his presence. And Boyle has something to say to those who criticize Gilbert for his laser focus on downtown. “I’ve lived in and around Detroit my whole life, so I’ve seen waves of energy come and go,” she says. “But this feels quite a bit different. I would love to see more energy in the neighborhoods, but we have to start somewhere. Once downtown gets filled up, people will start to move out to the neighborhoods.”
By Sarah Schmid, Xconomy