There is unmistakable evidence that positive things are happening in Detroit. It seems that everywhere, I see signs that brighter days are ahead.
From where I’m sitting, Detroit’s central business district is in the midst of a transformation that will be beneficial to everybody. I should mention that I’m writing this from a bench in an area of downtown Detroit known as Capitol Park. On every side of me is activity. Construction, cleaning crews and people prepare for new retail, commercial and residential development. A lot of transformative things are happening.
And not just in Capitol Park.
I arrived here following a 35-minute stroll through the downtown central business district. Along the way, I stopped to watch the construction of the M1-Rail. I gave directions to a family of out-of-towners who wanted to know where Comerica Park was, enjoyed the laughter of a group of interns walking out of D:Hive and stumbled upon several new eateries that had all opened in the past 30 days.
Halfway through the trip, I was forced to detour my route around the filming of the new Batman/Superman movie. While I waited for the shot to end, I could not help but notice moving trucks bringing another business into the area.
So, as I sit on this bench and contemplate the effects this type of growth is having, I think of a similar walking tour I took more than four years ago. Before I made the commitment to move Skidmore Studio downtown, there was zero activity. You could find very few people walking along Woodward, and certainly even less construction. When I announced that we would be moving from the suburbs to the city, people said I was nuts.
But I believed in Detroit then, and I believe in Detroit now. I believe that the creative community can make a difference in the city and the community. In the two and a half years we’ve been downtown, the progress has been staggering. I can see the scars of neglect being removed. I see people working here, wanting to live here. And paying taxes. I see a demand for a better city. And I see the businesses and government and foundations working as a cohesive unit to make it happen.
So, as I finish the tour and head back toward Grand Circus and pass by the David Whitney construction and look over to what promises to be an amazing new arena district, I can’t help but shake my head at the naysayers. I know there is much to be done. I know we have work to do outside the central business district, and people to educate and employ. But I also know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it is happening now.
Streetlights are coming back on. More police cars and ambulances are on the road. New apartments and condominiums are being built. People are moving in. Jobs are being created. Commerce is happening again.
And when commerce happens, the city can sustain organizations and services that can help the bigger community thrive. Organizations like D:Hive and Detroit SOUP...and even Skidmore do what they can to make an impact in our community. By donating creative services to organizations like the Detroit Public Schools and Reading Works, we’ve been able to be a part of attracting and better educating more students and help adults learn to read.
Many, many businesses are doing the same thing and I encourage every business owner in the city to do what they can to help Detroit return to the healthy, vibrant city it deserves to be.