Midwestern urban blog The Urbanophile says Detroit is America's urban laboratory and the new American frontier.
The troubles of Detroit are well-publicized. Its economy is in free
fall, people are streaming for the exits, it has the worst racial
polarization and city-suburb divide in America, its government is
feckless and corrupt (though I should hasten to add that new Mayor Bing
seems like a basically good guy and we ought to give him a chance), and
its civic boosters, even ones that are extremely knowledgeable, refuse
to acknowledge the depth of the problems, instead ginning up stats and
anecdotes to prove all is not so bad.
But as with Youngstown,
one thing this massive failure has made possible is ability to come up
with radical ideas for the city, and potentially to even implement some
of them. Places like Flint and Youngstown might be attracting new ideas
and moving forward, but it is big cities that inspire the big,
audacious dreams. And that is Detroit. Its size, scale, and powerful
brand image are attracting not just the region's but the world's
attention. It may just be that some of the most important urban
innovations in 21st century America end up coming not from Portland or
New York, but places like Youngstown and, yes, Detroit.
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