Detroit is doing better. How much? That’s where experts disagree.

The city recruited residents to participate in its ambitious - and delayed - rehab of the Fitzgerald community. Mayor Mike Duggan’s State of the City speech on March 5 is expected to focus on residents helping to plan projects in several communities selected for revitalization, said Maurice Cox, the city’s planning and development director.

It wasn’t billed as a debate, but the discussion Tuesday at Detroit’s Economic Club meeting stumbled into one about whether the city’s comeback benefits all.

The event entitled, “The Divided City: Poverty and Prosperity in Urban America,” after the book of the same name, treated the lunch crowd to a view of what the city’s comeback looks like from an outsider’s view and from the officials charged with turning a blighted town into a boom town.

On the one side, the book’s author, Alan Mallach a senior fellow with the Center for Community Progress in Washington D.C. who studied Detroit extensively. On the other: Maurice Cox, the City of Detroit’s director of planning and development and an unabashed booster.

Mallach called Detroit “fascinating” for its resilience, but doused Cox’s optimism, saying the city’s comeback is not as good as Detroiters would like to think it is. Cox countered that 10 neighborhoods selected by City Hall for extra money for revitalization are proof the city its comeback to extend to beyond downtown and Midtown.

Alan Mallach, author of The Divided City: Poverty and Prosperity in Urban America, says Detroit is growing, but has a “long, long way to go.” Gentrification should not be the source of division in a city that has lost more than 1 million residents over 60 years. “There’s room for more people,” he said.

Mallach warned the city “has a long, long way to go” compared other cities due to the woeful joblessness, struggling schools and flight of the black middle class.

“After the city’s decline was so severe, I think it’s not unreasonable to see small gains as important, and I think they are important but I think you’ve got to realize they’re small gains,” Mallach told to Bridge after the event at the Masonic Temple near downtown.

“A lot of the neighborhood strategies Maurice is talking about, they’re plans, wonderful plans, but that’s what they are.

“I think there are alot of questions about how are they going to succeed, how far is it going to go, how long is it going to take.”

Cox was more optimistic.

Maurice Cox, planning and development director for the city of Detroit, said his job requires a level of optimism.

“The rest of the country is looking to Detroit for how to be innovative in revitalizing neighborhoods,” he said. “I get an enormous amount of encouragement from residents who stuck it out. They know when you’re pulling their leg and when you’re talking real change.”

And no discussion about Detroit’s future is complete without talk of gentrification and the notion that Detroit has become two cities - the poor Detroit comprised of long-time residents and the gentrified, upper-income Detroit encompassing 7.2 miles around downtown and Midtown.

Gentrification has become a  well-worn topic over the past several years since the city has seen billions of dollars in development in downtown and Midtown.

The lunchtime crowd watching the genteel debate at Masonic Temple gave its most hearty applause when Mallach said gentrification, which means different things to different people, is not inherently bad for Detroit.

For Detroit to even begin to think it should discourage people from moving in because of fears they will somehow gentrify or push people out I think is a very counterproductive notion,” he said. “Detroit once had 2 million people … there’s room for lots of people.”

Mayor Mike Duggan’s State of the City speech in coming weeks is expected to focus not on the touchy issue of gentrification in the so-called “7.2,” but on residents who are helping to plan projects in several communities selected for revitalization, Cox said.

The speech takes place March 5.

The discussion was moderated by Bankole Thompson, a Detroit News columnist and radio host.

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Comments

Lisa K
Tue, 02/12/2019 - 5:51pm

I believe there is 2 Detroit plus!! After downtown Detroit and Midtown are completed then the mayor has certain zip codes that he favors outside of the 2 towns. Rosedale park, Boston community, English village etc
What about areas where blocks are not there but the residents loves their community such 48210 and 08 near livernos & Warren, Martin & McGraw , Tireman & boulevard. We need the old Chadsey Park revitalize with a walking path, tennis courts, baseball diamond, exercise equipment and benches. Bridging Communities has already committed to assisting with the up keep and other stuff. We just need the City & Detroit Public School Distrist to do its job!!

Paul Martinsky
Wed, 02/13/2019 - 7:31am

Much of Northeast Detroit-City Council District 3 continues to wallow in decline or stagnation, especially areas in the 48212 of city near E. McNichols(6 Mile), east of I-75 to Ryan Road to Mound/Mt.Elliott., parts of E. Davison too. The residential blocks , north of Jayne Field/Lasky Park to McNichols(6 Mile)@Ryan to Mound, continue to lose population. More empty homes and empty lots are dominant in this area north of current proposed Banglatown Development Area, The major commerical corridors of McNichols(6 Mile) and Davison in Detroit 48212 were once prime metro destinations for numerous popular restaurants(Shields, Turtle Soup Inn, Buddys, Savinas Place, Cherry Hill Inn, Marcus Hamburgers,etc..) international bakeries and markets(Sunny Side Bakery & Deli, Northeastern Bakery, Italian Buttecup, Larosas Bakery, Mikos Bros. Market, etc..) and other assorted retail(flower shops, ice cream parlors, produce markets, business offices, etc.). Most recently, a PNC Bank at McNichols@Davison closed, leaving that "NYC Times Square Stye Intersection" without a business for first time in nearly a century. Only a few places, very few, remain today on these aforementioned, still well traveled roads , that are ripe for restoration and/or new development.

Todd
Wed, 02/13/2019 - 2:59pm

Detroit will always be a cesspool. That's what liberalism does,