American Planning Association Survey Reports Data Similar to Detroiters Voiced Needs. So then what?

Something we have covered a lot in some of the film’s we’ve been working lately on is Detroit’s long term plan for residents and communities– something that has become a hot topic of discussion via the Mayor’s Long Term Planning initiative as part of the Detroit Works Project. To broaden the perspective on what Detroiters are voicing as primary concern vis-a-vis Americans in general, we can look at a recent article in the Atlantic discussing urban planning and what Americans think makes communities work. Some of the studies findings:

According to a new poll from the American Planning Association, two-thirds of the 1,300 Americans surveyed said that their community needs both planning and market forces to improve its economic situation.

And more specifically:

Respondents were also asked to rank the top five factors that make up an “ideal community.” The results:

1. Locally owned businesses nearby
2. Being able to stay in the same neighborhood while aging
3. Availability of sidewalks
4. Energy-efficient homes
5. Availability of transit

A nifty graphic to aid in looking at more of the findings:

The whole point: Detroiters have voiced many of the same concerns locally throughout the Detroit Works Project Community Engagement sessions. So, a few things come to mind:

  1. How can Detroit lead the charge for establishing aggressive appraoches to meeting these needs for Detroiters and establishing models that do it for other cities across the country?
  2. How can we assure that these topics remain at the top of the priority list as the Detroit Works Project moves forward with its long term planning initiatives?


DL! Getting Global Attention from Urban Outfitters and the Atlantic

OK, so this post will be a little brag-heavy, but hey, somebody’s gotta do it.

DL! got a shout-out the other day from Richard Florida which was kind of cool. If you’ve read any of his books, you can start to see some of the similarities between his thinking and Detroit. Nevertheless, this series he is writing and filming via the Atlantic (titled “How Detroit is Rising”) ought to be interesting. I hope that the research and the thoughts delve deeper than what has come to be known as the “revival story of Detroit.” I think it’s great that large media bodies are conglomerating around some of the miniature victories being seen in the city right now, it’d be cool if Florida found a way to advance some of his thoughts a step further through Detroit. But anyway, he makes a shout to DL! in the article kicking off the project. See it here.

Separately, Urban Outfitters in the UK is now selling a DL! print. Quite cool I’d say. We are really excited. Mega-fives (the more grandiose equivalent of a high five) to Scott Waraniak for the design work on that particular print and for helping to make us look so good (this is the same guy that did the motion graphics for the Be a Venture piece, designed this site, all kinds of stuff). Anyway, check it (click on the photo to see more or order if you are in the UK):

So yeah, feeling good on this Wednesday morn.

Detroit: If You Build it, Will They Come?

While leafing through the recent issue of the Atlantic, I was drawn in by a headline reading, “Kansas City Bets on Culture.” The sub-headline asked the question “If you build a shiny new performing-arts center, will the creative class come?” I immediately thought of Bilbao, Spain. It was largely an industrial town in the 19th and 20th centuries (second in production only to Barcelona) that underwent a transition to a service-based economy in the latter part of the 20th century like many other cities have: Pittsburgh, Turin, Manchester, Berlin, etc. Bilbao just did it by creating a destination. They commissioned Frank Gehry to build the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum in 1997. Within a couple of years the Guggenheim became a heavily sought-after tourist destination, drawing in millions of people. In many ways it ushered in an era of service-based growth repairing many components of the broken industrial past. And so the Atlantic asked the same question with a performing arts theatre built in Kansas City. Will it bring the young creative class in as tourists? As residents?

Here in Detroit, could we build a cultural attraction to usher in similar service-based growth? Could RoboCop do it? OK, OK. Kidding. Sort of. Though it doesn’t seem a horribly distant prospect given that boat loads of people go to Philly every year to see a Rocky statue.

Perhaps more likely to be the cultural attraction that could bring in the masses would be the re-development of the elephant in the room of our architectural ruins: Michigan Central Station. Everyone from Mars to Maryland has heard of this place, if not taken a photo of it, which lays the groundwork for a massive inflow of people were it to be re-developed in to something interesting. I can already hear people screaming that that will never happen. But wait–

Team LOVELAND has created a site to begin gathering ideas that people have as to what could be done with the train station: Anyone can get on the site and suggest ideas for the future re-development, with others being able to “love” that idea, the social equivalent of Facebook’s “like.” Even more interesting is that Nora Moroun, the wife of infamous Matty, the station’s owner, has taken a shine to the website and the sheer amount of ideas that are coming through. It’s proof that some dialog is being had around the future of this magnificent station, which is a massive step forward compared to previous years and controversy around its fate. If they do choose to develop something with the building, get ready Kansas City and Bilbao, because the masses will be flocking to Detroit to see and taste one of the greatest architectural comeback stories of all time.

Hump Day Chatter in Detroit

Just sharing a few articles and observations today that I’ve been reading around the interwebs.

First, The Atlantic posted an interesting article on Detroit that is chock full of interesting links and media. The nitty gritty: the Detroit they’ve been telling you is shrinking, isn’t actually shrinking at all, and if our authorities don’t acknowledge this fact and act accordingly, we essentially create a new problem. As I said, in the process, writer Kaid Benfield (who has written before on Detroit in other publications), throws a bunch of great articles, resources and interviews in to the mix that provide some interesting information. See the article here.

Second, the 2011 Kresge fellows were announced. This year, they focused on visual artists, and gave them each $25,000 with no strings attached, but presumably to continue supporting the work these people create. The Free Press put together a nice piece discussing this year’s winners. See it here.

Another Freep article kind of struck a chord (no pun intended) was about a group that is saving the pipe organ in Ford Auditorium before the demo crews get to it. From the article, “the organ, made up of 2,800 wooden and metal pipes ranging from 6 inches to 32 feet tall, is being taken apart, piece by piece, and will be rebuilt and restored at St. Aloysius Catholic Church in downtown Detroit.” But here’s the kicker: “The organ is expected to cost about $250,000 to restore and install at St. Alyosius. If new, it would cost about $2 million.” Whoo! See the article here.

Finally, I’ll be on WDET 101.9 FM tomorrow morning on the Craig Fahle Show discussing progress with the documentary we started filming in Poland this past May. You can tune in live here.