Richard Florida is a co-founder and editor at large of CityLab and a senior editor at The Atlantic. He is a University Professor and Director of Cities at the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute, and a Distinguished Fellow at New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate.
It may only be a small office, but the deal is a high profile win for entrepreneur Dan Gilbert.
The recession hit hard in Detroit, but there are also signs of some real sparks of innovation and recovery. This past week, Trulia's newly created Home Price Monitor ranked suburban Warren-Troy Farmington as among the top ten U.S. metros with the largest home price increases this past year.
And on Wednesday, Twitter announced that it will open an office in downtown Detroit.
The company's co-founder, Jack Dorsey, is an ardent fan of urban centers. Twitter's main office is in downtown San Francisco, not Silicon Valley. The company also has satellite offices in New York, London, and recently announced its new German headquarters will be in Berlin.
Twitter's Detroit office will located in the Madison Building, adjacent to the site of the former Madison Theater. Now known as M@dison, it's being redeveloped as a high-tech incubator by entrepreneur Dan Gilbert.
Gilbert's push to invest in and redevelop Detroit got started when he moved his company, Quicken Loans, from the suburbs into downtown offices. Now with his development company, Rock Ventures, he owns nine buildings downtown and has attracted 40 companies to those buildings, all in a very short time. Twitter is, by far, his most high profile catch.
Gilbert is looking to re-brand the city as Detroit 2.0. Even though some might call his particular approach to re-branding tacky, it appears to be working.
"Twitter coming downtown is exactly the kind of innovative company Detroit needs to advance our vision of becoming one of the most exciting high-tech and web-centered corridors of growth and activity found anywhere," said Gilbert in a news release. "Twitter chose Detroit because of the city's growing, young and energetic environment. This is further proof that the country is starting to wake up and take notice – if you want to create a thriving, growing tech business, downtown Detroit is one of the best places to be."
Twitter will start out with only a handful of employee at its new location, but even so, the company is a big addition to Detroit's budding tech scene and downtown renewal effort. And it shows older Rustbelt cities are also part of the broader shift in the location of high-tech companies from more traditional suburban office parks some dub "nerdistans" to more central urban locations.