In America, one strength that we have is a great sense of community. People love to be a part of something bigger, and take pride in the accomplishments of that community, feeling like they played a part. Things like iconic local foods, sports teams, and architecture make up a few of the things that Americans love to take part in from their hometowns. However, when these towns begin to fall apart, people that have pride in them feel inclined to take action, in order to preserve what they hold dear. This is the case currently in Detroit.
In the 1950s, Detroit reached its peak population at 1.8 million people. Immigration and the auto industry was booming, which caused Detroit to become a hub of progress and hard working people. However, as time moved on, structural changes within the auto industry, as well as racial tensions, caused Detroit’s population to begin moving on a downturn. Policy analyst Joe Phillips explains the seemingly exponential downturn of Detroit by saying “Detroit lost 325,000 residents from 1950-1970, and the diminished tax base became unable to support the city's infrastructure… properties were abandoned. City services were reduced, which led to increased blight and crime. Unemployment and poverty continue to grow to this day.” Large losses of the population like this are what caused Detroit to begin going on the downturn in the first place, and the exodus hasn't stopped. A city built for 1.8 million housing only 677,000 causes mass abandonment to be the only option, and has caused the city to gain a reputation for being “deserted.” Despite all of this, Detroit is changing. Politicians, companies, and individuals are coming together to get Detroit back on its feet. Large projects like Little Caesars Arena, the M-1 rail system, and revitalizing Michigan Central Station are a few of the many projects that have been or are going to be undertaken within the downtown area. Ultimately, though it comes down to whether or not people want to live there again. The mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan explains it as “The population number is the number by which we either win or we lose.” To get this population up, the downtown area cannot be the only area of Detroit that is addressed. Work needs to be done on the outer banks, within dilapidated and abandoned neighborhoods and communities, to get citizens feeling like they are a part of something bigger; and the citizens, companies, and foundations are willing to put the work in.
These outer communities are so very important because the neighborhoods and communities on the outside are where the foundations of culture and community are built. These houses and blocks are where locals build their lives and make memories for generations to come, but its current condition is simply unable to sustain that. There are many current projects going on to restore these neighborhoods, such as managing city services to clean up the problems that have been caused by years of vacancy and neglect, and building new constructions to promote newcomers and economic development. One neighborhood that has been getting treated is Brush Park, a district near midtown. Monica Davey, the Chicago bureau chief for the New York Times explains this by saying “the city has resumed cleaning out storm drains and sending street sweepers down neighborhood streets, where years of grime had accumulated.” Although Brush Park is still in midtown, this progress is certainly a start. The earlier that Detroit crews can begin work within the living areas and neighborhoods, the better. Brush Park will be the first step of many in the game of revitalizing Detroit living. While these efforts are taking place, there are also efforts that are less physical, and happening behind the scenes to help people to find a home. One such service is increased mortgage lending in the Detroit area. John Gallagher of the Detroit Free Press says “It used to be nearly impossible for a home buyer to get a traditional mortgage in the city. But efforts by lenders, buoyed by an improving economy, last year saw about 1,000 mortgages granted in the city, a huge increase from just a few years before.” While this is not as easy to point out as a brand new housing construction, it is equally as important. Allowing citizens to take out mortgages on properties greatly increases the chances of moving in, especially for the long term. Not only this, but it's also easier for people to start businesses as well, thanks to organizations such as JPMorgan Chase, who has given out significant grants for people to start new businesses.
While these new businesses not only contribute to the economy, they contribute to the community as well. Take for example a company called Maxwell Detroit. Their goal for their company, as stated on their website, is “a non-profit that provides employment for homeless individuals to manufacture sleeping bag coats for those in need.” This company helps to fight against systematic homelessness and quality of life by making coats that can transform into sleeping bags.” They also regularly give these coats to homeless people for free so they can have one less thing to worry about. Another Detroit based startup is a company called CityInsight. This app, according to Abess Makki, founder of the company, “changes the way municipalities interact with their citizens” by “allowing users to monitor their water usage in real time, reach customer service, and pay their bills online.” Not only did he develop this app in Michigan, but Makki got the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to be his first client. These two companies alone show the importance of opportunity within big cities because the help that citizens, businesses, and local governments can provide each other is invaluable. These companies were started within Detroit, and both hope to expand further to eventually help the entire U.S. This dedication and service may not have been possible without access to city grants and an outpouring of support from their communities.
Although Detroit has had an unstable past, things are now looking up. Although progress will be gradual and slow, Detroit seems to be starting a very positive economic upturn. This is thanks to many individuals, companies, organizations, foundations, and the like, for all contributing what they can to get Detroit back on its feet, so future generations can preserve the iconic Detroit culture that we cherish.