It's official: Microsoft moving office to Detroit

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Detroit — Microsoft Corp. will open a downtown Detroit office in the One Campus Martius building early next year, moving a regional technology center from Southfield where it had been located for 30 years, officials confirmed Friday.

Dan Gilbert, chairman and founder of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans Inc., gives his remarks during the press conference announcing a Microsoft Detroit office moving into the One Campus Martius building.  From left, Phil Sorgen, Corporate VP Microsoft; Tracey Galloway, Great Lake District, Microsoft, and Jim Ketai, CEO & Managing Partner, Bedrock Detroit.

The Michigan Microsoft Technology Center will be on the 10th floor of the Campus Martius building, formerly known as the Compuware building, in the heart of the central business district. Microsoft will occupy more than 40,000 square feet. About 200 “remote employees,” who are mainly in sales, will have mobile offices in the Detroit space.

Microsoft signed a seven-year lease. The Redmond, Washington-based firm says it hasn’t made a decision whether it will keep a Southfield office.

The Microsoft Technology center is one of more than 40 worldwide and is used to bring together resources for customers. The move was cited as further proof that downtown is taking back its role as the regional office center for Metro Detroit after years of losing businesses to the suburbs.

“Microsoft recognizes being located downtown is great for business,” Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans Inc., said at Friday morning press conference. Gilbert’s Bedrock Detroit development company manages One Campus Martius. Gilbert and Detroit-based Meridian Health bought the former building for $142 million in 2014. Some of Gilbert’s employees are being moved elsewhere downtown to make room for Microsoft.

“It’s more evidence Detroit is quickly becoming one of the technology centers of the country,” Gilbert said. He cited the rising presence of “car tech” and “fintech,” which refers to firms that focus on innovations for business in the financial sector, ranging from consumer loans to insurance firms.

A rendering shows Microsoft branding at One Campus Martius.  Microsoft will occupy more than 40,000 square feet on the 10th floor.

Gilbert controls more than 90 properties in downtown Detroit. He’s invested over $2 billion in the city, and he and his real estate company, Bedrock, are major forces downtown. The businessman moved the headquarters of Quicken Loans from Livonia to downtown Detroit in 2010. At the time, the city's central business district was struggling with blight. Since the move, over 30 of those buildings have been renovated and become occupied, are being fixed up, or have plans to be brought back to life.

Microsoft currently occupies 52,000 square feet at the Southfield Town Center, one the largest multi-tenant office complexes in Michigan.

Southfield Mayor Kenson Siver said a robust downtown Detroit is in the region’s “best interest” while expressing regret of the Microsoft move. “Southfield is a very attractive business address because of our lower taxes, our plentiful parking and central location,” he said.

Siver cited a recent decision by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to move 380 workers this spring to the Southfield Town Center. Some of those currently work in downtown Detroit, while others are in Lansing and others will be new hires, according to Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Southfield has one of the highest office vacancy rates in Metro Detroit at 31.6 percent, according to the fourth-quarter report by JLL, a commercial real estate firm. Downtown Detroit, which lagged behind most suburbs for years, now has a 12.6 percent vacancy rate, according to the JLL report. That’s one of the lowest vacancy rates in the region, though parts of Oakland and Washtenaw counties have lower vacancy rates.

Oakland County doesn’t need to worry that Detroit’s gain is the suburbs’ loss, Gilbert said.

“I don’t really look at it that way, we are one big region. They are doing great,” he said. “You really need a central corridor to do great for the whole region. I think that’s been proven pretty much all over the world. They’ll be fine.”