We’ve passed a point where change is no longer theory in Detroit, but a reality. This past week alone, two rather large buildings in my neighborhood, the Forest Arms and the Strathmore, announced plans to begin redevelopment by or around the end of the year. These are the two last large buildings that have been vacant with nothing going on, at least, up until now. This represents a marked change in the area from even just a few years ago, and the difference is about as stark as one can imagine. There’s a few nuclei (Downtown, Midtown, Indian/West Village, Woodbridge, Corktown, etc) wherein this change is already visible, and it’s likely to spread much faster than we’ve seen previously.
The undertakings are usually private initiatives partially underwritten with tax breaks, and driven by folks with ties to the region, but not always. Whole neighborhoods that even when I moved here looked like hell, are suddenly getting a lot of positive publicity for the kind of redevelopment that I’m talking about. Case in point: Palmer Park South, a district of apartment buildings located (you guessed it) south of Palmer Park. The Detroit News had a nice writeup about it today, and tomorrow, I’m going on a tour with another native Michigander recently returned from Boston.
My point is this: that long-awaited ‘renaissance,’ a word that I’ve avoided for years, due to the fact that it seems to be jinxed, is happening. Yes, the city is broke, with a toxically dysfunctional political culture, but all of this redevelopment, with new people moving into a city that our parents wrote off decades ago, is part of what’s going to reform it. It’s going to require tons of hard work, compromise, and a solid dose of sobriety as to what it is that we can achieve, and how it is that we should go about doing it.
But that long awaited change for the better is happening, and the velocity with which it’s moving is picking up steam. There’s going to be issues, both known and unknown with which we have to contend, and there’s always going to be racial tension that comes along with it. It’s happening, it’s happening now, and it’s happening faster and faster.
Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus – Detroit’s Latin motto. Translation: We hope for better things to come, we shall rise from the ashes.