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        Dan Gilbert

        Founder and chairman, Quicken Loans Inc. and Rock Ventures LLC

        • Gilbert started construction in downtown Detroit on the state’s tallest building
        • He helped usher through the state Legislature a sweeping series of tax incentives
        • Pushed the region’s leaders to work on a bid to lure Amazon HQ2



        Photo by Larry Peplin for Crain's Dan Gilbert at the downtown Detroit groundbreaking for what will be the state's tallest building.

        To describe Dan Gilbert’s 2017, you almost have to look outside the dictionary.

        The billionaire founder and chairman of Quicken Loans Inc. and Rock Ventures LLC started construction in downtown Detroit on the state’s tallest building, helped usher through the state Legislature a sweeping series of tax incentives for large-scale developments (yes, like the ones he is doing), and pushed the region’s political, business, nonprofit and education leaders to work on a best-foot-forward bid to lure Jeff Bezos and Amazon to build a second corporate campus in Detroit and Windsor.

        In addition, many of the other redevelopments in his ever-growing pipeline got underway, were revealed publicly for the first time or were completed, ranging from the redevelopment of the Book Tower to an addition to One Campus Martius and news that his team has been in discussions about redeveloping the massive former Uniroyal Tire Co. site on the east Detroit riverfront.

        As of this writing, he and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores could also land a Major League Soccer expansion team to play at Ford Field. And he continues to inch closer toward redeveloping the site of the half-built Wayne County Consolidated Jail on Gratiot.

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        “It’s been crazy,” Gilbert said. “You gotta do it one day at a time or you sort of get overwhelmed.”

        In short: It was a banner year for Detroit’s most influential landlord and developer, who finished Quicken's move to the city in 2011 (it began the prior year) has been on a virtually non-stop acquisition and building spree in and around downtown, renovating and filling up long-vacant buildings and coming out with new construction plans.

        Constructing the 800-foot residential skyscraper on the site of the former J.L. Hudson’s department store site at Woodward and Grand River avenues downtown isn’t what consumes Gilbert the most, he said in an interview last month with Crain’s.

        It’ll get done, come hell or high water, he says. Instead, he’s thinking about what will complement it immediately to the north, on the same block, in a 9-12 story “podium” building that’s expected to house a mix of uses, ranging from office to conference and retail space, among any number of others.

        Every element of the $909 million development must work in harmony.

        “The gem is the podium. It will be the thing we spend the most time on, the most unique,” he said.

        Gilbert is far from just getting started. But that’s not to say he’s fully made his vision for Detroit a reality.

        With 15 million square feet or so under ownership and/or management already, his team envisions 9.2 million square feet — mostly new construction, since there are few key buildings downtown that he doesn’t already own — of new real estate added to his portfolio by 2022. Some of that is contingent upon Amazon selecting Detroit, but much of it is not.

        Detroit’s joint bid with Windsor to house Amazon, revealed last month in a 242-page spiral-bound book, shows a vision for the city’s skyline chockful of new skyscrapers and mid-rise buildings. The Seattle-based e-commerce leviathan anticipates needing 8 million square feet in the next 15-17 years.

        Whatever North American city or region Amazon ultimately selects is expected to be injected with 50,000 jobs and a $5 billion investment. The company expects to announce its decision this year, and Gilbert is confident that Detroit has a serious shot at winning the economic development sweepstakes.

        “I haven’t picked this up in two months,” he said last month, referring to Detroit’s bid for the so-called HQ2 submitted in October. “I read the letter (written to Bezos) and the 6 or 8 pager that we did ... When you go to what they want, it hits a lot of them.”

        In many ways beyond comprehension, he and his team hold immense sway over a vast swath of Detroit’s future.

        Its real estate. Its tenants. Its retail sector. And, in some ways, its perception as a whole.