In Detroit, a city whose downtown has experienced a similar decline to our own (albeit on a much larger scale), there is reason for optimism thanks to two major employers who have decided to move downtown from the suburbs.
First, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan announced that it would be moving 3,000 employees downtown from Southfield. That announcement was followed by Quicken Loans' decision to relocate its headquarters to downtown Detroit from Livonia, a move that will eventually bring 1,700 employees to the CBD.
The first wave of Quicken Loans employees began made the move downtown this week. Dan Gilbert, Quicken Loans' chairman and founder, addressed the employees on their first day downtown, saying, "For those of you who've never worked in a real downtown, there's something special about it. It will fuel us with a special energy." (No word as to whether his speech was written in Comic Sans.)
Gilbert really hit the nail on the head - downtown really does offer an energy that can't be found in the suburbs. It's just as true in Detroit and St. Louis as it is in Chicago and San Francisco.
Detroit's business leaders seem to be figuring out that their city's urban core is crucial to their region's survival. I hope our own business leaders can figure it out as well. If Detroit can do it, certainly St. Louis can as well.
Can you imagine 4,700 employees moving downtown? I sure can.