About Us

Develop Detroit builds vibrant, resilient communities and expands opportunities for all residents to succeed.

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Since its earliest days as a fur trading hub, Detroit has been a city of makers. From beaver pelts to salt, stoves to cars, music and beyond. Sometimes born of innovation and sometimes born of necessity, Detroit’s rise as an iconic American city has followed a circular pattern:

Imagine. Build. Evolve. Repeat.

Develop Detroit embodies this spirit. Our story begins in January, 2014.

The City of Detroit was six months into Chapter 9 bankruptcy- the result of a history-making economic disaster years in the making. But the city’s downward spiral, caused by decades of population loss, rising unemployment, and property foreclosures, had bottomed out. With nowhere to go but up, new imagination, energy and leadership emerged.

Detroit has long benefited from an active and engaged philanthropic community. Our largest foundations had closely followed the success of the Gulf Coast Housing Partnership (GCHP), a nonprofit real estate developer, in rebuilding New Orleans post-Katrina.

Founded in the months following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, GCHP has helped local partners bring over 45 housing and commercial properties to life, prompting much needed economic development in long-depressed New Orleans communities. The organization was created by the Housing Partnership Network (HPN), a collaborative of 100+ housing and community development nonprofits.

During a foundation-led policy meeting in early 2014, a seed was planted - of creating a similar entity focused on housing stabilization and real estate investment. After all, the aftermath of Detroit’s economic disaster was often compared to the impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans. Why not explore some of the same tried and true solutions?

A broad, cross-sector assembly of key City government leaders, community lenders, banks and the city’s foundation community were taken with the idea that such an organization could be created in Detroit. Sonya Mays was particularly convinced of its role in the next evolution of her hometown, meanwhile at HPN’s Boston headquarters, Detroit had been earmarked as a new place to infuse its signature mix of innovation and expertise. Imagine what happened next.

By the time the city exited bankruptcy at the end of 2014, Develop Detroit was on the fast track to becoming HPN’s newest social enterprise innovation. We were incorporated in Michigan in June, 2015. Develop Detroit combines social mission and private enterprise into an organization focused on real estate development that meets real needs.

We can’t wait to break ground. Let the building begin.

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