Detroit, one of the nation’s hardest hit cities during the 2008 economic crisis, started to boot strap itself in 2012. Real estate developers began investing in urban revival efforts in hopes of luring corporate employers to the Detroit area. It slowly worked. Corporations signed up for Detroit zip codes and business travelers once again had a reason to fly in and out of the city. More recently, those business travelers began to see investment potential in downtown Detroit condominium ownership.
In May, 2016, a local real estate attorney decided to use his legal training and experience to make Detroit as appealing to city natives/locals who had suffered the recession’s decline as it was obviously was to “outsiders.” Chase Cantrell founded Building Community Value, a non-profit dedicated to “…stimulating sustainable social and economic development projects that engage distressed communities in creating resident-led change that improves livability for all Detroiters.” (Cantrell’s words on his Linked In profile)
Better Blocks, Better Buildings is one such development project under the umbrella of Building Community Value. Better Blocks, Better Buildings is a low cost program (3 month seminar that costs $100./participant) that trains locals to become real estate investors, developers and agents in Detroit’s market. “The great thing,” says Cantrell, “is that there’s plenty of property to buy here in Detroit including thousands of vacant homes and community properties that can be purchased for as little as $1,000.” And, “…the only way to fight the narrative (that the locals are getting nothing out of these development projects) is to get native Detroiters involved in the process.”
Cantrell tapped the teaching talents of Peter Allen, a University of Michigan business school lecturer, to develop a seminar “package” covering the arsenal of skills necessary skills for locals, as eventual developers and real estate professionals, would themselves be able to take advantage of Detroit’s rebirth. Seminar content areas include learning how to identify projects with investment potential, learning how to write business plans, learning how to approach lenders, banks and other real estate specialists. Both Cantrell and Allen believe that “…given the right tools, people will begin to do the work.”
The Knight Foundation obviously agrees. The Better Blocks, Better Buildings program was just awarded funding, one of 33 programs in the nation, through the Knight Cities Challenge to make cities “…more vibrant places to live and work.”
Detroit’s economy, residents and real estate market were devastated in 2008 and the aftermath of the recession. With programs such as Better Blocks, Better Buildings that empower locals and their communities with real estate savvy, Detroit’s economy, residents and real estate market may truly be back in action again.