Lingua Mea Vita

The 10 Necessities for Detroit’s Revolution
April 20, 2011, 5:04 pm
Filed under: Misc | Tags: , , ,

I’m taking a departure from words to talk about something that irks me: discussion of my hometown, Detroit (or at least, the metro area). Seemingly everyone has their own ideas of what will “bring Detroit back,” but these ideas suck since Detroit is far from being one of “America’s Comeback cities.” So here’s my list of what is best for Detroit (and yes, I think my ideas are better. Call it ego—whatever.)

1. Honesty
Detroit is fucked up. The crime rate is high, the unemployment rate is astronomically high and the city is ugly as hell. Detroit, (like every other city) has its positive points, but Detroiters shouldn’t use them to sugarcoat the really bad things. Yes, the theatres in Detroit are gorgeous, but that doesn’t excuse the blighted eyesores next to the Masonic Temple Theatre.

 2. To Face Forward
Detroit is like a pathetic, psychotic ex-girlfriend—clinging to better times and refusing to let go despite having some serious issues. It shows up in the city in all sorts of ways: from people clutching to the auto industry as a main source of employment to advertisers using tired Motown songs in their spots. Detroiters seem to have an aversion to things that aren’t familiar, which keeps the city from being modern.

 3. Youth
Think of the population of New York—how would you describe the demographic? Do the same for L.A. Now Chicago. Did young, single people come to mind? They drive the population of cities. Someone told me today that Patti Smith said that Detroit is the new place for the young, hip artist type. Clearly, Patti Smith hasn’t been to Austin, Portland, Seattle, Boston or even Atlanta lately.

 4. Hot Industry
Michigan was onto something with giving tax credits to film producers, but since the governor did away with that, Michigan (and Detroit) is left without a hot industry. For people to want to move to a location there’s got to be some glamour. No one is going to move to Detroit because they want to work for Quicken Loans (or even The Big 3). New York has fashion, LA has movies, Austin has music, Chicago has skyscrapers (Chicago doesn’t have a specific hot industry, but it sure looks like it does).  I personally think Detroit could have Art. The Detroit Institute of Arts is large and has pieces by van Gogh, Matisse, and Diego Rivera, not to mention the Frank Lloyd Wright house, the Heidelberg Project, and Banksy left his mark in Detroit.

5. Public Transportation
Subways, trams, and efficient bus lines are really indicators of a big city (name a major, happening city without them). Detroit is 0 for 3, and that’s because Detroit is clinging onto this old “Everyone-in-the-Motor-City-owns-a-car” deal.  The auto companies being based in Detroit does NOT make them cheaper. I think a lot of Detroiters would see public transport as an upgrade. (Luckily, there is a light-rail system being built in Detroit, but it runs to the northern ‘burbs. :/)

6. Food
I’m not talking about restaurants, because Detroit has plenty of great ones (Slow’s, Fishbones, Wolfgang Puck Grille, Xochi’s…the list goes on), but there are more stores of a liquor variety than the grocery one. Especially downtown, where they are creating cheap luxury apartments. Having a nice place is great, but you don’t want to have to drive further out into the city in a rough neighborhood  or 30 minutes to the suburbs to get to a grocery store. Yes, there’s the Eastern Market, but its barely accessible, with parking being so atrocious down there.

7. Whites
This isn’t going to make me popular, but the nail in the coffin for Detroit was White Flight. Whites didn’t feel safe post-race riot, so they fled to the burbs. Now black people don’t feel safe in Detroit, and they are contributing to the mass exodus. In this age, young people (who fuel major cities) want to live in places that are cosmopolitan. That means the city can’t be dark chocolate, but it can’t be vanilla either. I once saw a study that said white people won’t move to a largely black community unless there are Asians and/or Hispanics also there. For Asians and Hispanics to be there (mostly Asians), whites have to be present (as white communities are deemed “safer”) or other Asians and Hispanics have to be around. It’s a one hell of a Catch-22, but Detroit is lagging far, far behind.

8. Style
Regardless if a city is renowned as a fashion capital or not, the upwardly mobile have to spend their money somewhere. But where would they shop in Detroit? It needs the big brands: the Chanel’s, Valentino’s, and the Dolce and Gabbana’s of the world to open up in Detroit, so the wealthy can spend their income and subsequently produce the image of wealth. Other cities have upscale shopping, Detroit does not.

 9. Patience
People need to realize that even if Detroit does a major overhaul, it’s not going to happen overnight. It will cost a lot of money. It will be an investment. Companies and investors are afraid of Detroit and Detroiters. You’re not going to see a flood of faces from all over the world running to Detroit to pursue their dreams the day after the new Cobo Center or the light rail opens. These things take time.

 10. More Honesty
Lastly, Detroiters may have to realize that this revolution just may be in their heads. Detroit might actually go the way of Flint, it may die. It may never return to its pre-riot glory days as the 4th largest city in the U.S. and hotbed of opportunity. What Detroit needs is a lot of blood, sweat and tears from investors who are too afraid of a dangerous and quickly dying city. It’s good to have the hope and the fire in the belly, but if you have that as a Detroiter, make sure you are doing your part to make sure that Detroit gets back on its feet (and that means doing more than just talking about how awesome Detroit is to your non-resident friends).