Yet an important phase of rebirth must be letting go…When memories of what Detroit was, or visions of what one hoped it might become are released, then we can be free to see Detroit as it is and to plan for what it can really become.
After the economic burdens of Detroit’s collapsing past are lifted, the city must be ready to finally let go of old paradigms that have kept Detroit from transforming. We are free to state the starting point.
* Detroit is not safe
Detroit will initially still be a city that few will want to move to or to invest in until a clear path is created for Detroit to grow and to prosper. In fact, many will still want to leave if they can if crime is not dramatically reduced. But Detroit can become a very livable city if opportunity replaces hopelessness and if strong incentives for a prosperous future are introduced for newcomers. These are not just platitudes but very achievable goals.
* Detroit is blighted
After Mr. Orr and Detroit’s leadership make the tough choices, Detroit will still not be the vibrant city that downtown represents it to be. But it will have pockets of strong neighborhoods and it will continue to craft a fairly clean, brownfield canvas from which to build a future. Blight will continue to be cleared. Building exteriors, yards, sidewalks and vacant lots can be vigorously maintained by incentive and enforcement, main thoroughfares can be maintained to represent Detroit’s future, key growth centers can be enhanced to seed growth.
* Detroit is spread out and unwieldy
Detroit has three times the land that Walt Disney World had when it acquired 47 square miles in Central Florida. Speckled throughout the city, Detroit’s has liabilities but many can be transformed into assets. And Detroit’s land is one of its biggest assets. The West was settled by the draw of land. Given a well-defined land use vision, clear principles of growth, strong incentives for investment, and a culture recreated to support growth, Detroit can rapidly emerge, and positive signs of growth can simultaneously spread throughout its various neighborhoods, while highlighting the call for entrepreneurs, innovators and industry to return to Detroit’s key economic centers.
* Detroit is Gentrified
In 140 square miles, Detroit’s master plan has room for gentrification. It has room for high tech, for entrepreneurial centers, for commerce, education, and art. But Detroit is already the residence for 700,000 people, many of whom have been the forgotten ones, downtrodden, unemployed, poorly educated. Many have experienced the violence of Detroit. Most are hoping for opportunity and a better life.
Many of Detroit’s residents travel outside the city each day to give of their talents. Most can produce viable products and services right in Detroit, once employed. Yet, from Detroit’s existing population, workers must be matched to work they can readily perform. High wages for low skilled work is gone. Yet, the paradigm that living wages for low skill work cannot exist in an America that must compete in the world, that paradigm must be obliterated to put Detroiters back to work. There is a way.
* Detroit has stagnated in stalemate for decades.
A dynasty of political structures that preserved Detroit’s old economy must give way to equitable sharing of political powers for a new economy. A workforce power structure of high union wages for low skill work must give way to an economy that provides a living wage for low skill work and a city that promotes education and training for higher wage opportunities. Old prejudices that allowed Detroit’s neighborhoods to be underserved must be isolated through economic incentives that change behavior until prejudiced views can be reduced by stereotypes of a new economy.
* Detroit is isolated
A metropolitan region that has walled off communities from one another must be reconnected and interconnected to allow regional collaboration and regional growth. Solutions that can bring innovators, investors, and employers, those key components of growing economies, into the heart of Detroit will require agreement from regional, state, and federal governments, as well as support from entrepreneurs, local, national, and international industries to be dynamically effective.
As age-old paradigms are let go, Anticipation and new expectations can be formed to start rebuilding Detroit’s identity and to create a productive economy that provides jobs and a thriving future for all.