Roundup: Urban Detroit in the News

Credit: Tanya Moutzalias

It’s going to be a Detroit-heavy week here at Next City, given Anna Clark’s 4,700-word Forefront story on the Detroit Future City plan, a broad 50-year effort to turn Motor City around. Clark’s story published on Monday, and to get our readers in the spirit of things, we thought we’d point back to some of our previous Detroit coverage that has appeared on Next City this year.

One of the most significant developments in Detroit over the last seven months was its takeover by the State of Michigan. Despite Mayor Dave Bing’s stress on local control in his February State of the City speech, the following month Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Kevyn Orr as the cash-strapped city’s emergency manager. Orr would eventually (and expectedly) declare the city insolvent, although his 41-page May report didn’t make any mention of bankruptcy.

Detroit is facing a $326 million deficit. Credit: Flickr user dharder9475

Crime and public safety have always been key issues in Detroit, a fact that hit Hostel Detroit founder Emily Doerr hard when she was mugged at gunpoint in February. In response she penned an open letter to her city councilmember about the lack of adequate street lighting near her house. Next City reprinted her letter in full and provided a roundup of the conversation it ignited in local media.

Detroit alley at night. Credit: Flickr user Groovnick

Not all the news out of Detroit has been negative. In December the city got its first comprehensive guidebook since the 1980s, a badly needed reference for locals and tourists alike. I spoke with From Belle Isle to 8 Mile co-author Robert Linn about his book, and how it fits into the evolving Detroit narrative, in a February interview. (Disclosure: Both Doerr and Linn are members of Next City’s 2012 Vanguard class.)

Speaking of books, Next City Book Club curator Brady Dale chose as one of his first titles Detroit City Is the Place to Be by Mark Binelli. Dale found the premise of the book — that Detroit really is the place to be — a little weak, but found a strong case in a follow-up interview with longtime Motor City-based consultant Francis Grunow, who discussed Binelli’s work as well as the “legacy that looms over Detroit’s recovery.”

Next City’s new blogger, Bill Bradley, focuses on economic development and equity. A Michigan native himself, much of Bradley’s work has dealt with various issues in Detroit. He took a look at the city’s bid to host the ESPN X Games and found it promising, but cautioned that steps must be taken to keep the economic benefit within city limits.

More promising is that Detroit’s first Whole Foods grocery store has made a commitment to hire local and stock products from local businesses. What could have been a gentrifying haven for the gluten-free organic set, in other words, might end up integrating itself into the community in a more responsible way.

Council President Charles Pugh shops Whole Foods Market Detroit. Credit: Whole Foods on Facebook

On the transportation front, Southeast Michigan got its first regional transportation authority, a move that had been some 43 years in the making. The agency’s first project? A commuter rail line connecting downtown Detroit to Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan. And though plans to widen a highway in the downtown will more than likely go through, guest writer Alec Appelbaum argues that the debate leading up to the decision itself represents an important step forward.

A rendering of the M1 rail line in Detroit, which will connect with the proposed commuter rail.

And for a sense of the people and organizations behind economic development and recovery in a number of Detroit neighborhoods like Midtown and Corktown, we can always recommend Clark’s July 2012 Forefront story, “Welcome to Your New Government,” which you don’t need a subscription to access.

Tags: public transportationeconomic developmentdetroitpublic safety