There’s no doubt the cars are the stars at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), but the 2015 show also shed a bright light on downtown Detroit.
Auto show officials say this year’s opening day had the strongest attendance in six years, with a crowd of 110,509 people – that’s an increase of almost 4,000 from last year. In all, 215,826 car enthusiasts took part in opening weekend.
Before the public show even opened, more than 5,000 journalists from 60 countries gathered to report on 50 vehicle debuts, which helped spread the automotive news around the world. Many also shared news about downtown Detroit’s resurgence. Newspaper reporters, photographers and camera crews from England, Germany, Norway, Sweden and France took tours of the Compuware building and other properties owned by Bedrock Real Estate Services, which allowed them to see firsthand how Detroit’s beautiful, historic buildings are being restored and what businesses and retailers are rapidly moving in. Since 2011, Bedrock and its affiliates have invested $1.6 billion in approximately 70 properties, totaling more than 10 million square feet.
“We’ve noticed the revitalization downtown and around Campus Martius,” said Len Hargraves of Liverpool. “(Bedrock is) taking these beautiful buildings and putting them back into use, and (they’re) getting people working again and downtown again. It’s nice to see.”
Hargraves attended this year’s auto show with his son, Steven, who lives in Windsor, and a friend from Lexington, Kentucky. Steven describes himself as “slightly addicted to Detroit,” and he admits to crossing the Detroit River often to visit his favorite spots.
“I love to see what’s happening, whether it’s a new trendy dive bar opening up or a massive multi-million dollar event,” he says. “It’s a city where everyone hustles, everyone works hard and if you’re not working hard, people call you on it. It’s great. It’s attracting people who are innovative. It’s an inspiration to me and hundreds of thousands of people who know about the story of Detroit.”
Also spotted on the show floor was Tom Decker of Ohio, who says he tries to visit every year. He was checking out the Lincoln MKC; he says his wife will be getting one soon.
Howard Bromfield drove 180 miles from Ontario with his son, Nick. He says he first started attending the show in 1989.
“I like the changes they’ve made to the hall,” he said. “It’s gotten progressively better. I think they’ve done a great job. Every year I come back, I’m more and more impressed.”
Jeff Garshon of Ohio was like a kid in a candy store while ogling the electric blue Ford GT, which was a fan favorite this year. Countless people have snapshots of the hot car on their smartphones.
“I love cars to begin with,” Garshon explained. “Any chance I can have to see innovation, manufacturing and some of the new technology they’re introducing, to me, it’s like Christmas.”
Other people we spoke with described the 2015 show as “bigger and brighter than usual.” One auto show guest observed that “people seemed happier this year.” That feeling of optimism stretched from the Cobo Center to the streets of downtown Detroit, where positive change was evident to locals and visitors from across the globe. From the M1-RAIL project to new developments, retailers and attractions, it’s only going to keep getting better.
The auto show ends on Sunday, so get down here this weekend to check out the cars, explore the city and see what everyone is talking about for yourself!
Buckle up, Motor City, and enjoy the ride!