Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Want to see Detroit get better? Visit other cities to get ideas

Often I hear a saying, "You can't be what you can't see."

Sometimes, these words are not taken very seriously, because they are not meaningfully spoken.  However, this statement holds a LOT of truth.

I meet a lot of people that say that they want to help Detroit become better, but I keep hearing the same ideas.  For instance, I hear a lot about street cleanups, which are good, but they mostly wipe away the visual clues of blight...today.  They do not really remove the things that are causing that blight in the first place.

Don't get me wrong.  Street cleanups in Detroit are great, but they need to be part of a bigger plan--not the biggest part of the plan.

A Realization - Other cities have something Detroit does not

I ask many people that live in Detroit whether they ever have seen streets on Chicago's North Side.  Most of the time, they have not.  There are several areas in the South Side of Chicago that were formerly downtrodden, but today they are trendy spots.

Just this past weekend, I visited Columbus, Ohio.  I noticed that there are many neighborhood revitalization projects at different stages.  German Village is a neighborhood that used to be a slum, but today you need a lot of money to afford a place there.

Italian Village in Columbus is in the beginning stages of being renovated, but it seems to have a solid blueprint to follow from nearby neighborhoods that are in later stages of the transformation.

Where to get ideas - first step?

We need more people living in Detroit to visit different cities.

We need more people in Detroit to see how other cities look nicer to trigger their own imaginations of how Detroit can--one day--look as nice...be as nice.

When you see people walking in thriving districts, it's inspiring.

Here in Detroit, we have the section of Midtown near Wayne State University (WSU) that looks really nice.  We see people walking along the businesses on Woodward without spending all of their energy looking over their shoulder.

Downtown Detroit is nice, but it is such a small area...so far removed from most Detroit neighborhoods...that most Detroit residents do not take it seriously.  They seem to consider it as a separate entity, not something that reflects anything that is part of them.

However, when you visit different cities, you have a chance to see that many buildings in the City of Detroit really aren't that different than buildings in many other cities.  Sure, each city has its own flavor, but when I visit other cities, two (2) main things become apparent:

(1) Things are different.
(2) We have enough in common that they do not have to be that different.

Why can't Detroit be a great city?

It is great to have Detroit pride, but seeing other cities makes me realize that we could be so much better.

Success leaves clues.  We just need to find things that makes those other cities great so that we can be great, too.

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