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2013: A year of challenge, change for Detroit with more in store in the new year

January 01 2014 | 1 comment

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2013 is a year unlike any other in the city of Detroit’s 312-year history.

Bankruptcy is the reason.

Decades of disinvestment, white flight, a shrinking auto industry, neglect, corruption and kicking the can down the road on tough decisions–all combined to create our urban crisis.  And pave the way for the arrival of Kevyn Orr as emergency manager.

A judge ruled the city of Detroit is indeed, bankrupt.

The decision in federal court in November simply validates the reality Detroit residents have been living with for years now.

 There’s too much crime. Too many abandoned buildings. Too few jobs.

Across much of the city, street lights don’t even work.

On a recent morning, 77-year old Arthur Daniel was clearing snow from the walk in front of his east side home. He’s live in this formerly bustling polish neighborhood since 1941.

“You’ve seen a lot of changes,” a reporter remarked to Daniel. “Yea, I’ve seen quite a few,” he replied. “Not all for the better,” the reporter suggested. “Ah well, its been mostly downhill,” Daniel continued.

That’s all supposed to start changing in the new year.

“I am simultaneously excited and exhausted when I think about what’s going to happen in 2014,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Baruah’s job is to sell Detroit and southeast Michigan as a place to do business.

“The auto companies are thriving today, both the suppliers and OEM’s are thriving today because they fixed how they did business,” Baruah said.”The city of Detroit needs to do exactly the same thing.”

Roger Penske and other business leaders stepped up to help public safety in 2013 and beyond. They financed, equipped and delivered 100 new police cars and 23 EMS units.

The philanthropic community is also backing a light rail system along Woodward Avenue that will run from Grand Boulevard to Congress in downtown Detroit.

“It really is the connective tissue, sort of the zipper that ties the community together in a real effective way,” said Matt Cullen, president and COO of Rock Ventures and CEO of M-1 Rail.

“We’re going to break ground on M-1 in the next couple of months and we’re really excited about it,” Cullen said.

The M-1 rail project will be completed in 2016 and should hep fuel the continued resurgence of Midtown and downtown.

“We need to actually insure that this becomes an attractive place for people of all types to live, to work, to recreate,” Baruah said. “There is a movement internationally to cities and Detroit needs to get its fair share of that kind of urban desire that is out there.”

The activity taking place isn’t far from where Arthur Daniel lives–and he’s noticing the change.

“No one has actually moved in or out of this neighborhood in a good number of years,” said Daniel. But to see it building up around the corridors is a good sign and then I think once you get shopping back, you got the city back.” Daniel chuckled as he said it.  He knows the change he’s waited years to see–won’t be happening overnight.

Daniel’s home is the only one remaining on the block. It is located across the street from St. Albertus school, which has been closed for years. Like so many empty buildings in Detroit, it has been scrapped, vandalized and sits as one more source of blight.

“It used to be a magnet in and of itself, that school,” said Daniel. “Then it went into an adult training center. That helped a little bit for the early years but now it’s just me and the pheasants.”


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  1. Rochelle January 5, 2014

    Generally a great summary of 2013. White flight occurred mostly in the 50′s 60′s during the real estate blockbusting scheme and following the ’67 riot. The greatest population decline from the 70′s through YTD was blacks leaving the cities in droves, with more and more doing so each subsequent decade. So white flight was not the only reason.


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