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October 18, 2001 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2001-10-18

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6B - The Michigan Daily - Weekend, etc. Magazine - Thursday, October 18, 2001
Sitting Down With ... Paul Hillegonds
An interview with the president ofDetroit Renaissance

The Michigan Daily - Weekend, etc. Magazine

Paul Hillegonds, a University alum, is
currently the head of Detroit
Renaissance, a group of local business
executives attempting to lure economic
development into the city. From 1978 to
1996, he was a Republican member of
the Michigan House of Representatives,
serving as GOP co-speaker from 1993
to 1994, and as speakerfrom 1995 to
1996. Excerpts from an interview with
David Katz and Louie Meizlish conduct-
ed last Friday follow
The Michigan Daily: Why did you
get into politics?
Paul Hillegonds: I remember
promising myself the morning I found
out that Robert F. Kennedy was assassi-
nated that I really would try to find a
way to devote my life to public service
... when the University of Michigan
Washington Internship Program was
created and was seeking the first class
of people to go to Washington, I jumped
at the opportunity as a junior at the "U."
TMD: (With the House evenly split
55-55 between Democrats and
Republicans) how did you keep every-
thing sort of together?
PH: It was a wonderful experience.
First of all, the (Democratic) co-speaker,
my co-speaker, my counterpart, Curtis
Hertel and I became very good friends.
We had served together maybe eight
years but we hadn't known each other
well, but we became acquainted and we
became very close friends. We learned
through a number of experiences to
trust each other and the idea of sharing
the agenda also was translated into shar-
ing committee chairmanships as well as
the speakership ...
After checking with other states who
had been in a similar situation and
learning about other models of sharing
power, we really crafted out, what came
off who would preside in the speaker's
chair every other month and in the
month that the party controlled the floor
action by means of having a speaker-
ship, the opposite party would chair the
committees. And so what would happen
is that each party would have a two-

month period of time when they could
work a bill through committee and then
to the floor and then they would have to
turn the power back over to the other
TMD: Maybe we could move to your
current job.
PH: A lot of my time is spent in the
community with various groups. While
our mission at Detroit Renaissance is
economic development, it's economic
development quite broadly defined. It's
not only our lending activity to try to
assist developers that are converting
older buildings into lofts, housing units.
We have a lending program for African
American entrepreneurs who are look-
ing to grow their businesses in the city.
So we do some bricks and mortar work
but we also are very involved in eco-
nomic development more broadly
defined, such as the health of schools
and working with the K-12 institutions
in particular.
And our cultural institutions. One of
the aspects of quality of life in this
region and city is the great amount of
arts and culture that we have not only in
regional institutions but local arts orga-
nizations and we've been engaged in
trying to get a regional tax passed that
will supports arts and culture. We barely
failed in that effort last election ... last
year. But we're looking to try again next
TMD: Have residential developers
shown more interest in property here in
PH: ... I believe that there is poten-
tially more investment interest today in
the city among not only private develop-
ers, but nonprofit community develop-
ment organizations than there is the
capacity to accommodate that invest-
ment, and that gets into a whole array of
policy and city services issues because
so many people have left the city of
Detroit over the past three or four
decades [that] you have a tremendous
amount of what is called tax-reverted
The city has in its possession at least

40,000 parcels that because of delin-
quent tax payments it's come back to
the city. While the fact is a lot of the
property has clouded title and you need
to work through title issues, the pricing
issues - how expensive is it going to
be to obtain? -just the process issues
- how long it is going to take to acquire
it? And so we're very involved in work-
ing with the city, and the state, and,
increasingly, the county (Wayne).
Because under a new law that we
helped to get past, the county is increas-

I mentioned the cultural funding
piece, but we have been working now
for several years with the cultural insti-
tutions to get them to collaborate in
their programming and to do more out-
reach to smaller arts organizations in
the region and in the city, which I think
has really improved not only the finan-
cial condition but the state of arts and
You'll see that we are working with
Wayne State University ... on a
research and technology park. We did

Hillegonds with a view of the Detroit skyline from his Detroit Renaissance Center

ingly involved in tax-reverted proper-
TMD: What at Detroit Renaissance
are you doing to lure business to the
PH: ... When the CEOs came to the
realization that for some of the invest-
ments in the city conventional lending is
not enough - you need some subsi-
dized lending - our companies put
together a Detroit investment fund capi-
talized at about $50 million and that's
there specifically to do lower-than mar-
ket rate lending and what we call gap
financing - you can get some money
from conventional lends but not enough
to do the deal - So that's another way
we've been involved.

some of the funding to develop the con-
cept. But, see, we'll be able now to
work through our companies to promote
potentially joint ventures between
smaller research firms and some of the
major companies to locate in this
research and technology park. Wayne
State's interests, of course is the com-
mercialization of some of the research
they're doing ...
So it's those kinds of things. We can't
be all things to all people and we have
generally been in the business of pre-
development lending for housing, work-
ing on improving the schools, and
through this Detroit Investment Fund,
now really trying to assist the sort of
newer economy activities.

TMD: How does Detroit
Renaissance and the city sort of work
together or distribute, you know, allo-
cate responsibility for dealing with a
company like that?
PH: ... We compare notes. We con-
stantly remind each other of our roles
and are careful not to step on each
other's feet. But, you know, if they have
a prospect and they know that prospect
needs some gap financing, or maybe
some pre-development lending, they
can send that person our way.
TMD: Two similarly related ques-
tions. Are there more businesses com-
ing into the city than going out right
now and the same with residential
PH: The latest census figures show
that we did lose population again, over
this 10-year period but that the popula-
tion decline has slowed. And if you look
at the new housing starts in the last
three to four years, the starts are
increasing to the point where last year
Detroit was in the top ten of communi-
ties and housing starts in the region over
the decade.
There are some encouraging signs,
though we're losing population, or have
lost population, (that) the decline is
slowing and it's beginning to turn
around ...
CompuWare building a new head-
quarters downtown (means) probably
3,000 new employees who weren't here
and will have spinoff affects, will attract
other smaller businesses. So I'm
encouraged about the trend, though it's
not a slam dunk ...
If you drove through the downtown
today the most striking thing would be
the absence of retail and the number of
really abandoned first level shops. I vis-
ited enough cities lately to know that it's
a common problem.
Unless you have more people liv-
ing in your cities, you're not going
to attract the retail you want or hold
it. And that's why we, working with
the Greater Downtown Partnership,
Detroit Economic Growth
Corporation, are focused mainly on
building conversions for residents.
We think the retail will probably
follow the residents. There will be
some retail mainly restaurants,
entertainment venues, that are
attracted by the new stadia. But
when it comes to shopping for
everyday necessities - food, cloth-
ing - we need more residents in
town. Downtown.
TMD: So how do you get them to
come together, the residents and the
commercial aspect? Which do you think
will come first and then which will fol-
PH: Well the commercial has come
first in the central business district. But
now you're beginning to see more inter-
est in taking some of the older buildings
that used to be retail and turning that into
housing. So there are an encouraging
number of loft developmepts happening.
I think we will see much more growth
of residential and potentially retail if we

Continued from Page 10B
TMD: I bought one to New York
round-trip for $90 about two
weeks after the IIth. Do you still
think I should go? I'm leaving
R: I might be a little worried, but
security is higher all over and New
York is one of the places where
there are all these FBI agents all
over, probably undercover ones.
TMD: Would you be willing to
pay for issues of the Daily?
R: Depends on how much you
charged. I like it though; it's a
good paper.
TMD: Are you happy that the
Gargoyle stopped charging for
their official campus "humor
R: Yeah, I got one of them. I'm
glad it's free. I got one of the
sheets they were handing out on
the Diag. I thought it was funny.
TMD: Really?
R: Yeah, the thing on Michigan
State is really funny.
TMD: Hmm... I guess I haven't
seen it. Here's something that's
not so funny though. Wednesday's
issue of the Daily was only eight
pages long because we couldn't
sell enough ads to fill more. Would
you be willing to buy a classified
ad in the Daily to help us out?
R: I don't have any money.
Otherwise I would.
TMD: Have you bought a gas mask?
R: No.
TMD: Do you trust Fed chairman
Alan Greenspan when he says
"The foundations of our free soci-
ety remain strong and I am confi-
dent we will recover and prosper
as we have in the past?"
R: Yes, yes, yes!
TMD: I'm going to submit slo
gans to large corporations around
America to help stimulate buying.
Something of my own patriotic
duty. What do you think of the slo-
gan "shop for victory?"
R: Umm... I don't know. It's fine,
but are are you doing it because
we're supposed to be shopping
more? It's not that catchy. It's not
bad though. Did you come up with
TMD: Yes. My roommate and I.
R: Well, I'm just being brutally
honest. It's not that bad though. It
might work.
TMND: It better


Abight, boys, it's time for your
lesson. I know you have all
wondered at some point,
maybe if only-
for a fleeting
second, but
deep down you
just can't com-
prehend what a.
girl's obsession.
with bags is all
Let's face it,
for a guy, his
bag, is well, his
wallet. That's it. Julie Geer
It's tiny, it fits inT
your pocket,
and you don't Fashion
change it
according to FieS
your outfit.
How simple! However, for girls, this is
not the case. So here comes your
Cliff's Notes version to some of the
most stylish designer bags around.
FENDI: An Italian house known for
its chic bags which are the talk of the
Big Apple on "Sex and the City." You
can spot them by their square, abstract
'F' button-flap closure. The basic
black bag, marked at around $400,
goes with anything. But take at least a
peak at the beautiful hand-beaded ver-
sions, costing upward of $1,000.
PRADA: Widely known for its nylon
bags of all colors and sizes, these sacs
are recognizable from their upside-
down, triangular metal Prada label.
Maybe the essence of these bags is
best represented in a conversation


from the movie "10 Things I Hate
About You:"
Girl I: "There's a difference
between like and love. I like my
Sketchers, but I love my Prada back-
Girl 2: "But I love my Sketchers."
Girl 1: "That's because you don't
have a Prada backpack."
Louis VUITTON: Another Italian
leather company, recognizable for its
brown grainy leather with the famous
"LV" decal printed in tan all over the
bag. From purses to backpacks to lug-
gage, they've been popping up even
before the early days of "Beverly Hills
90210." And it might even be right
under your nose; check grandma's
closet. They've been around much
longer than you have! For the newest
addition to the line, take note of the
Louis Vuitton graffiti-style logo bags.
Gucci: An additional Italian com-
pany, which began by making leather
goods. Look for the Gucci classics
such as the double "G" motif, often
with red and green striped straps,
(again, check grandma's closet) or the
handbag with bamboo handles. More
recent creations include powder blue
leather bags.
KATE SPADE: Starting out her acces-
sories company in New York, Kate
Spade has managed to make her mark

all over the map.Whether it's a wallet,
purse, messenger bag or diaper bag,
you can't lose with a "Kate." Think
square, despite some deviations now
and then. The most notable accent of a
Kate is the geometrical simplicity and
the black, rectangular Kate Spade
New York label.
CHRISTIAN DIoR: His now popular
"saddle bag" is making its way into
the spotlight. If you've ever been to a
fraternity or sorority barn dance, they
kind of look like a very jazzed up ver-
sion of the boda-bags you might bring
with you. Think old-western cowboy
and just add gold.
HERVE CHAPLIER: A French luggage
company making bags known by my
less bag-crazed friends, as "the beach
bag." You've seen them all over cam-
pus. The bag itself is one color while
the bottom and zipper material is
another. They come in a variety of col-
ors and sizes to match any ensemble.
And, bonus, they're extremely durable
because they are made of a heavy-duty
nylon fabric!
LONGCHAMPS: Another French com-
pany, this bag is somewhat similar to
the Herve bag; however it is a single
color or fabric throughout, and has
rolled leather handles. It too comes in
a variety of sizes, colors and materi-
als, the newest addition being this

Food for Thought
Manipulating Opinion
During the Vietnam War,
the father of Yung Krall,
author of "A Thousand
Tears Falling," was North
Vietnam's ambassador
to Moscow. Yung was
a spy for both the CIA
and FBI. In a personal
interview, Yung told
me that the anti-war
movement, schools,
even the Quaker church
were heavily infiltrated
by the North Vietnam's
agents, such as the
KGB, whose job it was
to feed misinformation
to those groups.
Gary Lillie & Assoc., Realtors

from VPa
89-05 138th Street, Jamaica, NY 11435 Tel: 718.29

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