Entrepreneur SEEN People Profiles

Creator of Experiences: Dan Mullen

March 2, 2017

Bedrock’s Dan Mullen continues to transform the face of the city

By Jackie Headapohl

He describes his job as “creating experiences.” What he’s really doing is re-imagining a city.

Dan Mullen is executive vice president at Bedrock, Dan Gilbert’s full-service commercial real estate firm based in Downtown Detroit. The firm owns more than 100 properties (over 16 million square feet of space), making it the largest real estate partner Downtown.

Bedrock’s portfolio includes iconic buildings such as One Campus Martius, the Madison Building, Book Tower, the Globe Building and the First National Building, among others. The company specializes in office, retail and residential space.

“My focus is leasing, marketing and development and to implement the vision of where Bedrock is going,” Mullen says. “I envision what our properties will look and feel like and how we’re creating unique experiences in Detroit.”

His favorite example? The Z parking garage, which zigzags from the corner of Broadway and East Grand River to the corner of Library and Gratiot. The 10-story garage has a 3-D-style facade and interior murals by 27 artists.

In 2014, Bedrock and Library Street Collective opened
The Belt, an art-filled alley between the garage’s two wings, which features bars and restaurants such as Standby and the Skip, an open-air cocktail lounge located in the middle of The Belt. “It’s a social environment with art,” he says. “We focus on creating experiences that keep people coming back.”
Mullen moved around a lot as a kid, “about 19 or 20 times,” he says. “Fortunately, I had the working bone in my body. I was 11 when I first started working landscaping and snow removal door-to- door. I did whatever I could to make a buck.”

College wasn’t in the offing for Mullen, but something better was. From doing his lawn, he knew the president of Quicken Loans, who helped him get his foot in the door.

“I came into the company at age 22, as a mortgage banker. It was my first real job,” Mullen says. “I had no professional training, so when I got in, I was relentless, working as hard as I could to learn as much as I could. I had amazing people around me.”

He worked his way up the ladder in about 10 years and was part of initial conversations with Dan Gilbert’s team about moving Quicken Loans to Detroit. “I was given the role of ‘Detroit guru,’ so to speak,” he says.

Gilbert started Bedrock shortly after he purchased the Madison Building. The company’s portfolio continues to grow each year. “Detroit has amazing bones. It’s an amazing community filled with great people,” Mullen says. “We know that Detroit is going to be one of the best cities in the country. We want to help make that happen by creating unique experiences with space and making every asset we have special.”

Dan Mullen is wearing a multi-button jacket, $1,198, silk cotton fine-ribbed henley, $298, and stretch Wight jeans, $198, from John Varvatos, Detroit.

Bedrock is quickly creating a destination shopping district Downtown along Woodward Avenue. Part of Mullen’s focus is to recruit companies to join the collection. He’s heavily involved in retail planning.

He succeeded in bringing premium brands such as Nike and John Varvatos to the city. Recent additions include eyeglasses retailer Warby Parker and clothing brand Kit and Ace. Fashion sportswear Under Armour will open a store this spring and menswear retailer Bonobos will open its first “guideshop” in Michigan on Woodward by the end of this year.

Bedrock is also heavily involved in residential development, from fully furnished microlofts to townhouses and carriage houses. The company is currently building 410 residential units in Brush Park as part of a development called “City Modern” and is rehabbing a handful of other skyscrapers for residential use.

“Residential units Downtown are 98 percent occupied,” Mullen says. “We’ve got to build as much as we can to keep up with the demand.”

Mullen says Bedrock is excited about other local developers’ projects, such as Ilitch Holdings, which is building the new Little Caesars Arena in Midtown. “We’re all one big team,” he says, “doing the best we can for the city.”

Eventually, Mullen says, development will spread from the city’s core out to its neighborhoods. “It’s about creating density,” he says. “You need density before you can spread. You have to start in the center and expand out.”

Mullen remains passionate about making an impact in the city and helping others.  NS

Shop Dan’s look from John Varvatos online or in-store: 

Textured Multi-Button Jacket $1,198, Ribbed Pima Henley $168, Stretch Wight Jeans $198, Morris Sunglasses $295

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