I had dinner the other night with someone who had just moved back into Detroit after 12 years of living in other cities around the country. He said he has been disoriented as he steps out of his loft apartment building because the downtown Detroit he left is nothing like the downtown he returned to.
That person’s experience will be multiplied a million-fold over the next five and ten years, not just in downtown Detroit, but in dozens of neighborhoods throughout the city. People returning to Detroit will have to use landmarks such as the Renaissance Center, Ambassador Bridge, and the main Library just to make sure they are still in Detroit!
We’ve had more than six billion dollars of construction here in the last few years, and there are hundreds of millions of dollars of construction underway or about to start. As they say, a billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you are talking about real money – and in our case real transformation into the Next Detroit.
But the streets, hotels, condominiums, offices, parks and other structures are only vessels for the enthusiastic and creative Detroiters and visitors who will be using them. Downtown will be a full, 24/7 neighborhood of residents who love the rich, diverse urban environment downtown. East Riverfront between downtown and the Belle Isle bride will be home to 10,000 people enjoying America's premier international waterfront. Midtown around Wayne State will have a rich and energized environment rivaling those found around other great urban universities in New York or Chicago. And while visitors will be remarking about those high profile transformations, the six neighborhoods identified by the Mayor for special attention – and others – will truly be neighborhoods of choice, with quality housing, shopping, and recreation.
My advice to anyone planning to leave Detroit and come back in five or ten years – buy a map when you return. It will be the best way to find your way around.
Jackson is president and CEO of Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, a non-profit organization that works with businesses, government and other organizations throughout Detroit to encourage and manage economic development projects.