"I definitely think we can build out from this core," said Matt Cullen, who oversees Gilbert's portfolio of companies, investments and real estate.
Sensitive to concerns that the line could become another People Mover, proponents say they have secured funding to operate the system for 10 years for $5 million annually. Private companies and philanthropies have contributed more than $100 million for the $140 million project.
Defenders of the building plan, including Gov. Rick Snyder, say the projects will serve as catalysts for new investment and tax revenue. Planners want to increase the downtown residential population from 27,000 to 46,000 in 10 years, a sizable increase.
"You have to start somewhere, so you start where the major businesses are," said John Mogk, a Wayne State University law professor who specializes in urban development.He is not sure how much benefit will ripple out to the downtrodden parts of the city. "This is a slow process," Mogk said. "We're talking about the next decade or two and what will downtown look like."