Should We Pay Professionals To Live Downtown?

January 22, 2013 35 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

As we continue to research how other communities are addressing many urban issues Jacksonville faces, various innovative strategies pop up every now and then. Despite Jacksonville's growth over the last half century, Ennis Davis, one of the founding editors of always seen our urban core as having eerily similar problems to Detroit over the same time period.

For example, Detroit has lost over 50% of it's population since 1950.  Strangely enough, while at a different scale, so has the Jacksonville that existed Consolidation.  For years, we've talked about the need to increase the residential population in and around downtown.  However, when it comes to incentives, they are typically used for attracting development projects (ie. Berkman Plaza) or leveling the playing field for companies to relocate (ie. Everbank).  Increasingly, more and more cities are applying the same concept to leveling the playing field for residents.

With that in mind, here's a brief overview of Detroit's Live Downtown Incentive Program.

If time and money are critical to your quality of life, then Live Downtown is for you. The average one-way commute in Southeast Michigan is 25.6 minutes. When you add it all up, that’s more than 2 weeks on the road annually-the national average for vacation time! That alone is enough for you to at least think about living near your place of work. If you’re still on the fence, how about some big help with your pocket book?

If you work for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Compuware, DTE Energy, Marketing Associates, Quicken Loans or Strategic Staffing Solutions, it literally pays to Live Downtown. These employers are offering financial incentives for their employees to live where they work.Live Downtown is a residential program to entice you to live and invest in a Downtown home. There are four incentive options to help you purchase or rent a home in one of the neighborhoods in and near Downtown Detroit: Downtown, Corktown, Lafayette Park, Eastern Market, Woodbridge and the Midtown areas of Brush Park, Cass Park, Art Center, and Lower Cass.Your housing choices are many – own or rent; condo or rowhouse; low-rise or mid-rise; historic or new construction – so dive into this Web site and learn more about the incentives and how to take advantage of them. Most importantly, make sure to Live Downtown, the urban center with the small town vibe!

Here are the perks if you work at BCBSM, Compuware, DTE, Marketing Associates, Quicken Loans or Strategic Staffing Solutions:

New homeowners receive up to $20,000 forgivable loan toward the purchase of their primary residence.

New renters receive a $2,500 allowance of funding toward the cost of their apartment in the first year followed by additional funding of $1,000 for the second year.

Existing renters receive a $1,000 allowance of funding for renewing a lease in 2012.

Existing homeowners receive matching funds of up to $5,000 for exterior improvements for projects of $10,000 or more.

For more information:

When announced in 2011, here was Mayor Dave Bing's response,

“The program will help create the density that downtown Detroit needs,” Mayor Dave Bing said during a news conference announcing the program. “Detroit is a city of renewed opportunity and distinct character. ... This is a great day.”

What Detroit is doing in an attempt to rapidly increase their short term downtown population base is not exactly new.  In 2000, the City of Philadelphia turned its fortunes around by offering a 10 year tax abatement program to lure residents back.  That resulted in a Center City population increase of 25,000 in less than a decade and the vibrancy that comes along with having such a high population living within a compact amount of land area.

Center City Philadephia

Turning our eyes to Jacksonville's quest to bring life back to the urban core, should we seriously consider looking into similar incentive programs or is this a form of giving away too much?

Editorial by Ennis Davis