Second ‘Detroit Homecoming’ aims to score big again

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

The second annual event aimed at wooing a group of successful former Detroiters to become involved in their home town kicked off Wednesday evening.

Mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis welcomes attendees, Wednesday Sept. 30, 2015, during a opening night dinner at the Detroit Opera House for the three day Detroit Homecoming event.

The CEO and founder of Under Armour, Kevin Plank told the “Detroit Homecoming” crowd that the fast-growing Baltimore-based sports apparel and shoemaker is looking for a space to open its first store in the city.

The 175 “expats” invited to the Homecoming will be heavily pitched by many Metro Detroit power players who will portray the post-bankruptcy city as an area that’s already rebounding.

Gov. Rick Snyder welcomed the crowd to the Detroit Opera House and told them that after 50 years of people leaving the city, there are now many stories of people returning. He cited the growth of Midtown and downtown and the plan to turn the Cass Corridor area into 45-blocks of new residents, retail and offices that will be anchored by the new home of the Detroit Red Wings, which is under construction.

He also noted that “this is a fragile thing,” referring to the city’s recovery.

Dan Gilbert speaks with Under Armour CEO and founder Kevin Plank.

Last year’s Homecoming resulted in $230 million in direct investments to Detroit through 30 initiatives by attendees, organizers said. That includes Thomas Tierney’s $2 million gift to Wayne State University, which renamed a property Wednesday the Tierney Alumni House. Tierney is president of VitaTech Nutrional Sciences Inc., based in Tustin, California.

Sports is a big theme this year. That included a speech Wednesday night by Plank. He was interviewed on stage by Quicken Loans Inc. founder Dan Gilbert. Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate Services Inc. has bought more than 80 downtown properties in five years. Many of those buildings were empty or underused and Bedrock has renovated most of them and often found tenants.

Gilbert and Plank “are friends with common interests: sports, entrepreneurship and urban development,” said Lexie Poeschel, a spokeswoman for Gilbert’s Rock Ventures.

Gov. Rick Snyder speaks to the nearly 200 attendees. Last year’s “Homecoming” resulted in $230 million in direct investments to Detroit through 30 initiatives by attendees, organizers said.

Plank described Detroit as a city his company wants to have a presence in, and said his real estate unit is looking for a Detroit space.

Other speakers include the creator of Pandora Media Inc., Tim Westergren and the founders of Groupon Inc., Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkosky.

The Detroit Homecoming ends Friday with the premiere of a documentary about Detroit made by singer Michael Bolton.

Twitter: LouisAguilar_DN