|Woodward Avenue in Detroit. Source: bettercities.net|
I am all for positive news about Detroit. I truly want Detroit to become a success story once again and serve as a new model for Rust Belt recovery. But the stories that come out of the Motor City should strive for some balance and a dose of reality, both in the good and bad.
Take this opinion piece from Robert Steuteville at bettercities.net. In it, Steuteville rightly touts the growth of downtown Detroit and the Midtown area, despite the city’s bankruptcy filing:
The news has been mostly terrible coming out of Detroit: The city declared bankruptcy in July, the largest municipal filing in US history. The city’s population has been in long-term decline, and Detroit now has only about 38 percent of the residents that it had in 1950.And yet the central part of the city is surging. More than 10,000 jobs have been added to downtown in the last few years, and that number is expected to top 15,000 by 2015. Everywhere construction projects are moving forward, almost entirely under the initiative of the private and nonprofit sectors…Downtown enjoys a 97 percent residential occupancy rate. Midtown, just to the west, has seen 3,800 new housing units and $2 billion in investment since 2000. The (private sector funded M-1) light rail line will go directly through Midtown, which is sure to see much more development. Nonprofit developer Midtown Detroit Inc. has 20 current projects and 30 more planned.
Detroit has a thriving “artisinal” economy. The Green Garage in Midtown is home to about 40 startup sustainable manufacturers. (Kresge Foundation president and CEO Rip) Rapson says there are 10 to 15 such incubators in the city, thriving on cheap space. A high-end watch and bicycle manufacturer, Shinola, has grown from 6 to 120 employees in Midtown in the last two years and has plans to double its workforce. High-tech firms are revitalizing the Riverfront warehouse district, north of downtown. Wedged between Midtown and Riverfront, the Eastern Market district thrives on the local food industry, with retail and wholesale distribution.
Probably 90 to 95 percent of Detroit, by land area, is in decline. Yet that 5 to 10 percent is bursting with spirit and energy, despite the city government, which is flat broke.