detroitI am fascinated with Detroit.  Perhaps because I spent a few years of my childhood in Ann Arbor but more than likely it has to do with the demise of a city and with that the incredible opportunity to rebuild.  How does Detroit become a thriving community again?

There have been a series of articles in the NY Times on Detroit..  There was one recently called The Path Toward Recovery.  Fred and I were discussing how does Detroit become a blossoming community again.

In NY, Cuomo has created something called Start-up NY that gives tax benefits to new businesses.  It sounds good but communities are not just built on businesses that are given incentives.  There is no doubt that Detroit needs incentives to build businesses but to build real communities you need culture, restaurants, homes, services, grocery, education facilities and more.  Tony Hsieh is working on this in Las Vegas.  It is an impressive undertaking and a lot to learn from what he is doing.  He is essentially building a community by touching on all of these things.

The Baltimore harbor was transformed through incentives.  The city sold homes to people for a penny and gave them a year to start fixing up their homes.  This took place in the late 70’s early 80’s.  There are countless homes that have been abandoned or foreclosed in Detroit.  What an opportunity for young people or young families to get homes for next to nothing and all they have to do is to fix them up.  That could be a start.

There are countless people who are unemployed in Detroit who worked in the car factories and now are essentially unemployable.  Why not create a job program for them so they can learn skills to work in a new environment. Then continue to follow-up with them as they get placed in companies like non-profits such as Prep for Prep does for underserved kids that are placed in schools to help them propel their lives forward through getting a good education.   They follow them through K-12 and then continue to have a relationship with them in college and even post-college.  They want to make sure they are succeeding.  Give companies a reason to build by giving tax benefits such as if 10-15% of the work force they hire are people who are in a program that helps train these unemployed people to get jobs.  They end up staying in the community and succeeding vs floundering.

Be strategic in planning.  When NY city rezoned the area of lower Manhattan called Hudson Square it was transformative.  There is now a balance of commercial, residential, education, retail and food facilities throughout the neighborhood.  A booming community.

Give restaurant owners incentives to open.  Bringing people in from the suburbs to eat in downtown Detroit creates a desire for more of this.  Urbanization also creates a reason for their kids to return to the area that they grew up in and put down their roots.

Fixing Detroit is definitely not a one prong solution.  There need to be reasons to want to return and build besides the young socially responsible people who are building farms and getting people engaged.  That is one step but there are many more.

Comments (Archived):

  1. JLM

    .Thirty years ago, I built the first high rise that had been built in downtown Austin, Texas in about 20 years. That began a renaissance that continues to this day with some time out for recessions and the like.In those days, nobody lived downtown and now it is hot as a pistol.Revitalizing cities means renovating existing building stock as well as building from scratch. It takes an entire industry of different type builders–residential and commercial.I did the attached buildings on opposite sides of the same intersection about 10 years apart. One was new and the other was old.Always remember big CBD buildings are 100 year propositions. Build for the next century.Now look at the Austin skyline. It is growing like crazy.Detroit will come back but it will not be the resurgence of the old ways—the automobile business. It will be something completely unknown just now.What Detroit needs is sound municipal management so that institutional investors will return. They do not trust the local government which bankrupted Detroit.JLM.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Very coolAgree it must be new business and smart people

      1. Christine

        With many issues, the private sector leads and the government plays catchup. The rebuilding of Detroit (where my family spent a few years when I was a kid) is an example of government having to take a lead, particularly with tax and zoning. Agree with JLM, a strong trustworthy municipal government has to be in place before Detroit will come back. If you are interested in Detroit (I share your interest), see “Only Lovers Left Alive” – Jim Jarmusch’s latest offering. Detroit is the backdrop for a vampire love story – Detroit is the star of the show.

        1. Gotham Gal

          will do.

        2. JLM

          .Haha, given the governing history of Detroit, a vampire story — blood suckers both — seems appropriate.JLM.

  2. PLang

    My idea for revitalization would be to bring back the auto industry but make it the electric auto industry. Tesla should invest in all of the abandoned factories to teach a new generation of factory workers.

    1. Gotham Gal

      great idea

  3. pointsnfigures

    My sister and friends live in the suburbs of Detroit. Totally sad what happened. I saw a house for sale that was 9000 sq ft blocks from the lake in the city and they said “you’d never want to own it”-even at the listing price of $450,000. You’d need armed security 24/7.I see the very beginnings of this in Chicago-but our economy is a lot more diverse. We are totally grappling with an exodus of people, and businesses. Violent parts of the city are becoming more violent. Here is an idea: http://www.illinoispolicy.o…First, they need to take care of the violence/pension problem. Businesses will not move in until they can move in safely. Heck, even Jesse Jackson had his tires stolen when they parked there!Next, they need to remove all government zoning laws and regulations for starting up businesses. It’s not going to be big corporate entities that get things going, it’s going to be small lifestyle business types. Small manufacturers (tool and die), injectors etc. The car industry may or may not return there-but if you read Bill Gurley Detroit automakers have more to fear about the future of Uber than the 1970’s Japanese invasion!The state and city might even go to 0% tax. Better to have people working and paying taxes than trying to filch taxes out of companies. It works well for Houston, TX.