concepts are conjured, such as the economic crisis and high crime rates. However, there are several organizations in Detroit who are challenging those perceptions; one of such organizations is LiveWorkDetroit (LWD). The purpose of LWD is to encourage, especially graduates and young professionals, to move into the city of Detroit, rather than elsewhere. LWD organizes events to expose people to Detroit and all it has to offer.
This past weekend, on January 21st, LWD organized an all day
and all-inclusive event for college students and young job seekers to introduce them to local employers, attractions, and growing residential areas in Detroit. Registered students and professionals were bussed from all parts of Michigan, including Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, to attend the event, which concluded with access to the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Hall.
Throughout the day, employers and current Detroit residents shared several facts, all attesting to the potential and current growth of the city. One fact that was
emphasized was the current demand for housing in Detroit. Austin Black II of City Living Detroit works with real estate and housing development in the city and affirmed that demand for housing has increased and this is a sign of growth.
Perhaps even more telling is the fact that a wide range of income levels are represented by the people who are interested in moving into the city. For example, many people from Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham, which are known to be cities with
high-income levels, have been showing an interest in moving to Detroit. Black stated that a common scenario is that students decide to move to Detroit, to much of their parents’ apprehension, and then once they move and as the parents become more familiar with the city, they too decide to move. Such effects are visible as many abandoned buildings in Detroitare now being renovated into lofts, condos, and apartments, and historic homes into bed-&-breakfasts, to accommodate the growing residential and tourist demands.
Another sign of growth is the fact that the major grocery chain, Whole Foods, will be establishing a store in Detroit. While normally this is not good news for small food businesses, Whole Foods has committed to work with Eastern Market, which is a highlight of Detroit as the largest open-air produce market in the U.S., and also plans to collaborate with Eastern Market to start a community kitchen. The fact that a major retailer has an eye on Detroit is an indicator that the city’s potential is becoming more visible.
Many organizations are also offering perks and incentives for tourists and residents. For example, residents get special discounts to visit the Detroit Institute of Arts. Free passes are also given out on the last Friday of each month for people to ride the People Mover, which is a transit system that moves people from various significant locations throughout Detroit. Inside Detroit, a non-profit organization, recently opened a Welcome Center to introduce people to the city and provides a variety of tours.
The tour at the LiveWorkDetroit! event was provided by Inside Detroit, which took participants on a drive through the Downtown and Midtown sections of the city. As the tour guide explained, Detroitis split into sections, each of which starts after passing a highway. For example, I-75 marks the boundary between Downtown and Midtown and I-94 is the boundary between Midtown and NewCenter.
The tour drove past several landmarks and symbols of Detroit, such as the Joe Louis Monument, the Spirit of Detroit statue, Riverwalk, and more. A stop was also made at the Guardian Building, which was originally a banking hall built in the late 1920s and is now an office building that houses several businesses and organizations. The building represents some of the greatest architecture in Detroitand the U.S., and from some references, even the world. Unfortunately, many people are not aware of it and do not witness the grandeur of the 40-story building which incorporates a variety of artistic and architectural styles, inside and out. On the back wall of the lobby, a six-story mural is present, which portrays a map of Michiganand the various industries and resources that make Michigan a special and unique place.
Upon reflecting on the day’s activities, the most common thought expressed amongst participants was, “[We] volunteer in other parts of Detroit that are run down and different than the parts we visited today. How can we work on rebuilding those areas as well?” The speakers admitted to not having a solid answer to this but stated that raising awareness and simply increasing interaction between the different parts of the city is vital. One speaker mentioned how one initiative is that soccer and other sports leagues have been formed where residents of the different parts of Detroit compete against each other every season. This very simple and fun activity has in itself increased a sense of community amongst Detroiters.
After hearing positive aspects and testimonials about Detroit and learning the history behind the landmarks in the city, it becomes obvious that Detroit was built on a foundation of perseverance, strength, and vision. The city has gone through several hard times throughout its history, but it has also seen several prosperous ones as well after each ordeal. And this is what many residents and organizations are now focusing on-bringing about the next peak in Detroit’s history.
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