EDITORIAL: Property deals may signal rising tide

Is Detroit hosting the "real estate Super Bowl"?

That's the phrase that investor Herb Strather used to describe last week's auction of foreclosed residential properties.

At the same time, online auctions yielded a bid of nearly $9 million for the David Stott Building downtown — a building with an occupancy rate of about 15 percent — and $4 million for the former Detroit Free Press building a few blocks south.

As we report on Page 3, the owner of both buildings, Emre Uralli, stands to make a profit of a few million dollars if the deals close. Uralli bought the buildings after selling his Florida real estate portfolio at the peak of the market there in 2007 on the theory that Detroit's historic buildings had significant upside.

This could be the proverbial rising tide Detroit has been waiting for. Significant investments by Dan Gilbert likely have helped raise prices on two fronts: visibility and greater occupied density.

It's another potential sign that segments of the economy can prosper even with the city in bankruptcy.

Paving a strategy for road repairs

Gov. Rick Snyder has backed off his push to get a comprehensive package of bills to increase revenue to invest in Michigan roads.

As an alternative, he's pushing for legislation to charge fuel taxes at the wholesale rather than retail level.

That's a good alternative because it allows for future revenue growth. The current per-gallon levy at the retail level has starved transportation funding because people drive less and have more fuel-efficient vehicles.

But any long-term strategy for road improvements also needs two companion elements.

First, the truck weight limits need to be overhauled. Michigan has higher weight limits than neighboring states. It's senseless to invest in road surfaces if heavy truck traffic tears them apart.

Second, the state needs strategic funding options for public transit — in metro Detroit and other population centers.

As the Regional Transit Authority begins operations in Southeast Michigan, a clear vision for transit — and the steps required for public funding — should be taking shape, too.