Austin Black II was born in Detroit, Michigan on the northwest side. After graduating from Birmingham's Seaholm High School, he began his undergraduate studies at the Cornell University College of Architecture, Art & Planning.
Austin has long held a passion and affinity for big cities and unique development projects. One of his elementary school science projects was on the "Design of the Renaissance Center" and the relationship between tall buildings and wind velocity.
As an undergraduate student at Cornell, Austin spent six months studying abroad in Rome, Italy. While in Italy, he visited more than 20 cities to study urban redevelopment and community development projects. He also spent a semester with the Cornell-in-Washington program studying and working in Washington, D.C., where he interned for the Brookings Institution's Center for Urban and Metropolitan Policy.
Initially Austin considered relocating to one of the many cities he had visited, lived, and/or heard great things about. In the end, he decided to come home to Detroit and become actively involved in making the "D" the type of place that he and so many others cherish.
Austin is a Realtor with Max Broock Realtors. Recognized as a Rising Star in 2008, he specializes in Detroit residential properties and is a founding member of City Living Detroit. He also serves on the Boll Family YMCA board, the Detroit Synergy Advisory Board, and the United Way Leadership Next Leadership Team. In 2006 Austin was recognized by Crain's Detroit Business for its Dream Board of Directors and 20 in their 20s.
Austin has lived in Midtown Detroit for over two years. Please contact him if you have any questions on real estate or living in Detroit.
After graduating and choosing to move back to Michigan, I was determined to make a difference in Detroit.
Non-profit organizations like Detroit Synergy introduced me to a diverse group of people that had a common goal of creating positive change in the community. Detroit Synergy is a community-driven organization that allows individuals to initiate projects in collaboration with community partners. Finding organizations with similar goals has helped me build a stronger connection to the community and introduced me to other opportunities.
In 2004, myself and four other young professionals came together to plan an event to showcase residential options in the city of Detroit. With the help of Matt Cullen and General Motors, we hosted a housing fair at the GM Wintergarden. As a result of this partnership, we formed City Living Detroit, an organization that promotes Detroit as a vibrant urban center by providing resources that encourage people to move into the city.
Over the last four years, City Living Detroit has produced four housing fairs, three magazines, and several bus tours of residential developments throughout the city. Many people that attend its events are surprised at the amount of development happening throughout the city. The organization would not have been started without the support of corporate, individual and non-profit sponsors.
For people that want to make a difference, there are endless opportunities to get involved with a strong support system that allows people to do things here that would not be possible in other major cities.
It's been six years since I graduated from Cornell University… Time really does fly. Back in 2003, my initial plan did not include returning to Michigan. Being a lover of urban areas since a young child, I had dreams of moving to Washington DC or New York City.
Living in DC for a semester got me excited about the idea of not having a car and using the subway as a primary mode of transportation. Living in Rome for six months got me addicted to walkable neighborhoods. Growing up in Michigan, mass transit and walkable neighborhoods was more a dream than reality.
So why did I come back?
My love for urban areas began in Detroit and I hope it ends that way. As a young child, I remember coming downtown to the Thanksgiving Day Parade and being more interested in the architecture than the floats. I also remember going to my mom's office at the Renaissance Center and asking her coworkers tons of questions about who designed certain buildings. During my high school days, I frequently dragged friends downtown kicking and screaming, to take pictures, go out to eat, or just hang out.
My ultimate decision to come back to Michigan was driven by the progress and opportunities I saw in Detroit. There have been many setbacks in my journey but the decision to move back is one that I do not regret and I would make the same choice if I had to do it all over again.
Over the next two weeks, I will talk about the opportunities for young people to make their mark on shaping Detroit's future.