Blog: Matt Clayson

Post No. 5

So, how does one make sense of all these intangibles? What can be done to provide immediate solutions? What can be done to provide long-term solutions?

Accessibility. As I mentioned on Friday (Post 2), Detroit is underground; it is the great hidden city. Though this underground nature can be leveraged as an asset, it can also be an impediment. How do we counter these impeding effects?

Information is one part of the solution.

The new resident, the future resident, the casual visitor and the curious: all need a one-stop source for gleaning information regarding all things Detroit. A cost-benefit analysis, per se, complete with average housing costs, insurance costs, utility costs, tax information, crime statistics, school rankings, etc. Such a source would be a realistic approach that discloses both the benefits and detriments to living in the city of Detroit; it would be a legitimate view that would enable individuals to make an educated decision regarding moving here; a transparent site that would provide information for busting myths and quelling rumors; and an inclusive site that connects the numerous online and physical resources geared towards retaining current and attracting new residents.

Developers in Grand Rapids, Michigan, have used such an approach in many of their marketing materials. These marketing materials break down the costs of living in the city. They include monthly mortgage costs, based on income; association fees; and property taxes. They include information regarding local businesses, school stats, crime stats and population and economic trends. This information enables the potential buyer - the potential resident - to envision and understand what living an urban lifestyle entails.  

As applied to Detroit, this source could be a quick and relatively inexpensive solution to the problem of retaining current and attracting new residents. It could be part of changing the attitudes discussed in Post 3. It could use factual evidence to underscore Detroit’s unique sense of opportunity (Post 4). All it needs is a champion.

An urban agenda is the other part of the solution.

On Friday (Post 2) I made the case that, dense, warm and inviting urban areas are also accessible. Unfortunately, Detroit lacks an urban agenda that addresses its fundamental shortcomings in this regard.

Sure, the city has a master plan. Sure, the preservation community has a long-term vision document and strategic mission. Sure, numerous charrettes and studies have been commissioned in an effort to sustain and support urban growth. Nevertheless, a comprehensive grassroots campaign to transform our city into a true urban place has yet to be seen. And, until one is created, individual interests will pursue their specific agendas without regard for a unified urban vision of Detroit.

Again, this could be a quick and relatively inexpensive solution to the issues of creating urban place, changing attitudes and presenting opportunity. And, again, all it needs is a champion.

So, be that champion. Join a community group that you believe can promote these ideas. Advocate for information transparency. Advocate for a unified and inclusive urban agenda.

Most importantly, be an engaged resident and enlightened citizen. It’s up to us to build the type of community we all want to see.