At BUILD, Ryan and I are researching various funding models and best practices of coworking space and incubator models, ultimately culminating in a feasibiltiy report. The hardest part of the research is figuring our where the money will come from. So when Eric Larson, developer of the old Tigers Stadium site and executive director of BUILD’s parent organization, Downtown Detroit Partnership, was quoted in Crain’s Detroit saying BUILD would likely be a tenant of the development’s subsidized commercial space, we were really excited.
After our BUILD team meeting Monday morning, we went downtown to the Renaissance Center (RenCen) for a meeting with Eric and Kelly, also from DDP. While April wanted Ryan and I to prepare some numbers (how many sq ft, avg start up and operating costs of a coworking space, number of private offices, etc.) for the meeting, Eric didn’t really care about the numbers right now. He wanted BUILD’s story. He said figure out your identity and your story and the numbers and money will follow.
For our next meeting with Eric and the rest of the Tigers stadium development team, Eric wanted us to nail down BUILD’s identity, point of view, story, and vision to present to the rest of his team.
In a way, Detroit has become a tale of two cities, however these two cities did not exist at the same time. Detroit was once the richest cities in the world, and, in less than a century, it has fallen into widespread poverty and crime, becoming the largest city to file bankruptcy. However, after adjusting the debt and exiting bankruptcy, Detroit could rebuild in one of two ways. Detroit could rebuild as a segregated (economically and racially) city, becoming the classic tale of two cities. The inequality gap in the United States has been rising since the 1950s, and the picture of wealth inequality today looks very similar to the level of inequality just before the Great Depression. Some will argue a rising tide will lift all boats and inequality drives growth and innovation, so as long as everyone is doing better off its ok that some gain more than others right?
As America continues to rebound from the recession, it is important to make sure growth is met with opportunity for all. To avoid the tale of two cities, Detroit could match its amazing growth potential with increasing opportunity for all. Borrowing one of April’s sayings - we must be intentionally inclusive, otherwise we become unintentionally exclusive. Detroit, I think, is at least slightly more conscious of this idea than other cities because Detroit has been rebuilding from the grass-roots up. But as Detroit continues to get back on its feet, its important to keep this idea in mind.
That’s BUILD’s story. We are making sure that low to middle income entrepreneurs have access to the knowledge and resources to start their businesses or even pursue life with an entrepreneurial mindset. We pride ourselves on our diverse community and contributions to Detroit to give everyone the opportunity to thrive. Even beyond the economic benefits of thriving entrepreneurs in Detroit, BUILD is making a social impact to create a diverse, integrated urban community. We’re creating a tale of a third city, one that’s not divided into two.
While creating a diverse, integrated community sounds like a great summer project and incredible help to the city of Detroit, the day to day work is not nearly as glamorous. Our Monday meeting with Eric and DDP was a great reminder of the grander picture, but on the day to day, Ryan and I are on our computers looking up grants and funding sources, trying to nail down an ideal square footage for BUILD’s new space, asking other coworking spaces for estimates of their start up and operating costs. Its all about the numbers; its all about the money. BUILD has to be all about the money because our students and grads are all about the money. Not all about the money in the sense they only care about profit, but that they are always thinking about costs, budgets, and how to make ends meet. We need to keep the cost of the classes and new coworking space down to make sure they are accessible to all. If we can’t keep costs down, we can’t create an intentionally inclusive community. Our feasibility study and findings must always include the feasibility for both BUILD and the people we serve. We are finding a feasible solution for BUILD to expand our reach, scope and community, while keeping its sevices accessible and intentionally inclusive.