I live and work in Midtown, which is alive and kickin’ with ambitious entrepreneurs and Wayne State students. Midtown boasts eclectic dining options, like HopCat and Go! Sy Thai, in addition to the well-branded stores of Shinola and Auburn. Midtown particularly appeals to those hoping to avoid the high cost of living Downtown. In Midtown, the people seem overwhelmingly young and motivated; Downtown isn’t much different. From skyscrapers and busy streets to a beautiful trail along the Detroit River, Downtown boasts all the typical characteristics of a big city. The city is rejuvenated and committed to improvement. Bankruptcy and the country’s worst murder rate seem far-removed from Detroit. When Downtown or in Midtown, I frequently find myself thinking, “you’d never know this is Detroit.” Well, that’s because it isn’t representative of most of Detroit.
Yes, Midtown and Downtown are roaring with successful start-ups, but just beyond these areas, Detroiters are suffering most. The past few years, wealthy individuals have moved into Midtown and Downtown at staggering rates, vastly increasing the cost of living in those areas. This gentrification has displaced thousands of Detroiters, forcing them to find new places to live or even flee the city altogether. So it’s Detroit’s periphery that reveals its greatest hardships; houses are abandoned and crime rates soar just outside the boundaries of Midtown and Downtown. Access to affordable food and good schools are hard to find, but it’s not all hopeless.
As many ambitious entrepreneurs move into Midtown and Downtown, they recognize this issue and want to help. Organizations like Detroit Future City, Detroit SOUP, and the Social Club are starting the conversations that need to be had. Many people believe that Detroit is only as strong as its most impoverished areas, so a push for better public schools, affordable housing, and access to low-cost foods is underway in the periphery of Midtown and Downtown. It’s too early to predict the success of this movement, but its very existence is the most uplifting news I’ve heard since coming here. While many people have invested interest in their own success, it seems that many Detroiters have invested interest in all of Detroit’s success. It’s that spirit that makes me most excited to spend the next seven weeks here.