“Scenes From a Changing Detroit” is an interesting article that highlights 9 concrete examples of how the city has been revitalized. The article, just like our program, has taken the mission of depicting the new face of Detroit. However, this mission comes with it a lot of responsibility. Detroit is changing, but we need to remember that a lot still needs to be done, and that the improvements have benefitted the city limitedly to central neighborhoods.
When walking downtown, in the midtown section of Woodward or in Cork Town it is easy to imagine of being in Soho, Manhattan. As mentioned by “Scenes From a Changing Detroit” the M1, capital Park and tech town are diamonds that crown the beautiful city center. During our visit at Quicken Loans various data was presented to make clear how downtown can finally be considered fully revitalized. The new tallest building of Detroit, that has been approved and will be constructed soon, can be considered as the last proof of the change that downtown has undergone.
I always found fascinating to analyze how retail can influence and transform neighborhoods. A example of the power of retail is definitely Whole Foods. At a conference, Italian journalist, Luigi Rubinelli, has described the trend of some Whole Foods of becoming “gathering points” for the community around them, moving away from their initial identity of “elite grocery shop”. Living just a few blocks away form the midtown Whole <Foods, cited also by the article, I can tell that this space plays a pivotal role in engaging the community in an healthy and constructive way. Whole Foods also fosters small local producers, giving them a chance to reach a wider public. Mitten Bites, a product made by the Detroit Food Academy, has reached higher level of sales thanks to the interest that Whole Foods has shown towards the product. The article does a good job of mentioning this in the top 9 examples of a revitalized Detroit. However, this is where my personal experience in the city forces me to bring us back to reality. Walking one block left from Woodward brings us to Class Avenue, where our group resides. Today, biking uptown on Cass, I could not avoid noticing the many abandoned buildings that divide Cass Avenue from 2nd Avenue. A quick and probably not completely accurate Google search has told me that there are still 70.000 abandoned buildings in the City of Detroit. During our Quicken Loans visit, Adam Kokenakes, a cartography and planning associate at Rock Ventures, brought up that urban blight is a problem that many people are working on right now.
Mine is not pessimism. I just want to remind myself and the other Duke Engage students that the great things we are able to see Downtown are just the first wins of a longer battle . We often hear how much Detroit is changing, and how much better it is now. However, we have to remember that a lot still needs to be done in order to put a check mark next to the name “Detroit”. We, just like the article, have the responsibility to show the new face of Detroit. However, my hope is that the community we have the honor to be momentarily be part of will not stop working hard seeing the first positive results.