DETROIT—Rock Ventures, a subsidiary of Quicken Loans, released a number of announcements about downtown development on Thursday, including a new retail plan, a new Papa Joe’s market, a design contest and the acquisition of the 12-story Vinton building.

Rock joined the Downtown Detroit Partnership and Detroit Economic Growth Corp. Thursday to discuss the Opportunity Detroit initiative, a Quicken-led effort to encourage people to live, work, play and invest in the city of Detroit.

Other stakeholders in the initiative include the Project for Public Spaces, Shook Kelly, Gibbs Planning Group and Terremark Partners. The plan is centered on creating six distinct and unique destinations that draw people to the region, give them an experience that will make them want to return frequently and where they will want to spend more time. In the plan, Woodward Avenue becomes a major boulevard connecting these great destinations.

Quicken has already put its money where its mouth is, as the firm has purchased 22 buildings totaling three million square feet of commercial real estate, and nearly $1 billion invested in the Central Business District since 2010.

"Detroit stakeholders need to know this vision is real," said Dan Gilbert, chairman and founder of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans. "It is a wildly-exciting, incredibly well-thought out plan that will be activated immediately. Residents, office workers and visitors will experience a dramatically different Detroit in two years. We are committed to impacting the outcome and we are relentless in getting every Detroiter to join us in this campaign."

His firm confirmed that it has purchased the 44,000-sq.-ft. Vinton, which was built in 1917. The company also said it has signed retail deals, including bringing Papa Joe's Gourmet Market and Catering to the First National Building, steps from Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit.

Rock Ventures has also signed master lease agreements with the Schostak Brothers and Farbman Group to manage more than 60,000 sq. ft. of first floor retail space along the Woodward Corridor in downtown Detroit. The properties include 12 storefronts along the 1200 and 1400 blocks of Woodward Avenue.

The Schostak Brothers' master lease includes 45,000 sq. ft. and nine storefronts on the 1200 and 1400 blocks of Woodward Avenue along the west side between State and Clifford Streets. This includes the retail space below the Lofts of Merchant Row.

The Farbman Group master lease includes 15,000 sq. ft. and three store fronts on the 1400 block of Woodward Avenue along the east side between Grand River Avenue and John R Road.  This is the retail space below the Woodward Lofts. Through the agreement, Rock Ventures will have the option to hold the master lease for a total of 30 years.

"When a city reaches the critical mass that downtown Detroit has seen, it is vitally important that the service industry – restaurants, consumer goods and grocers – follow suit," said Craig Kaser, founder TerreMark Partners. "Detroit is in a unique position where its cache is growing yet retailers can still enter the market affordably, while also being able to take advantage of a very strong, and underserved, consumer base."  

Rock Ventures has already been leveraging retail space along Woodward.  Several of the storefronts are currently occupied and others are being white-boxed to allow for quick conversion into retail spaces for companies looking to capitalize on the exciting opportunities that exist in Detroit. 

Finally, Rock has announced a design competition to come up with a redevelopment plan for the historic Hudson’s Department Store site. Opportunity Detroit is hosting a free, open call for architects, designers, planners, artists, and community members to present ideas for innovative, creative, and inspired designs for the future use of one of the city's most beloved locations. The winning entry will be announced April 30, and will earn $15,000.

"We want participants to use their imaginations and submit visionary proposals with inspiring ideas that could play an important role in the redevelopment of not only the Hudson's site, but all of downtown Detroit," said Reed Kroloff, director of the Cranbrook Academy of Art and Art Museum and competition advisor.