COSTAR GROUP INVITES REPORTER FOR AERIAL TOUR OF DETROIT SUBURBS IN ITS NEW SINGLE-ENGINE PLANE
The Pontiac Silverdome looks a heck of a lot different from a quarter-mile in the air than it does when I pass by it along M-59.
From that vantage point, you get a bird’s-eye view of the dome’s tatters strewn throughout the 80,311-seat stadium, which sits on nearly 128 acres and is being marketed for sale.
“Holy crap,” I said in the Cessna Aircraft Co. Grand Caravan EX on Tuesday morning as the folks from CoStar Group Inc. gave me the opportunity to fly above the Troy, Royal Oak, Birmingham and Auburn Hills areas as the company scouted for construction projects.
I’m pretty sure no one heard me say that because we were all equipped with Bose A20 Aviation noise-cancelling headphones. And it’s for the better that all five of us were wearing them. In addition to it being very noisy in the plane, I was a nervous wreck before the flight, muttering to myself and peppering each thought with choice expletives.
You see, on my Things to Do Before I Die list, flying in a single-engine plane above the Detroit area was right near the bottom, perhaps only a notch above alligator wrestling and going to a Nickelback concert.
Put another way: I am a terrible flier. Always have been, likely always will be, because I am marvelously terrified of heights (which probably isn’t the best attribute for someone who regularly finds himself in very tall buildings).
And that’s exactly what I told Michael Weinstein, the senior Michigan sales director for the Washington, D.C.-based real estate information service who invited me on the trip, and Thomas Schirra, the Detroit market analyst for CoStar, prior to takeoff from Oakland County International Airport in Waterford Township around 7:30 a.m.
To my surprise, I didn’t hate it. Actually, it was really fun. I kind of felt like a little kid on the bumper cars at a county fair, asking his parents if he could do it again.
During the approximately hourlong flight, Weinstein and I, plus Amber Surrency, aerial research photographer for CoStar, and our pilots saw construction work going on at multiple sites in the area, most of which were difficult for me to identify at 1,500 feet. (Schirra hung back at the airport awaiting his longer expedition in the Cessna.)
But it was seemingly a breeze for Surrency to update CoStar’s database of more than 68,000 metro Detroit properties with fresh information on a variety of sites — changing whether projects are proposed or under construction, for example. This is where the CoStar-owned Cessna (base price: $2.2 million) comes into play.
Where it once took three months to track certain construction activity in the company’s 30 major markets, it now has pared some of that down to just three days.
Surrency seemingly updated information in CoStar’s system in real-time from the plane, equipped with a Cineflex Ultra RED Dragon camera, which can photograph and film sites from up to two miles away, mounted on a ball turret at the rear of the plane. It’s a 6K camera, which basically means you can take the resolution on a 1080p high-definition television, improve that six times over, and that’s how high quality the images are.
All that seems far more efficient than the 150 cars CoStar has in its fleet to canvass major cities around the country for new construction and development projects.
So from up high, some noticeable landmarks were the Beaumont Health hospital in Royal Oak, the Palladium building in downtown Birmingham, the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica Catholic Church in Royal Oak and the Delphi Corp. building in Auburn Hills. Also, just about every area high school’s football field, identified prominently by the school name in colorful block letters in each end zone. And just about every lake dotting the region as well as a sky view of the I-75 and Woodward Avenue rush-hour traffic I was able to avoid.
And the Silverdome, the last discernible building we flew over before we landed.