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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Is gentrification helping or dividing Detroit?

Outside of Detroit, it’s hard to find a metro-area resident who isn’t optimistic about the city’s future.  A new hockey arena, trendy restaurants and housing under construction all over downtown, Midtown and nearby neighborhoods.

What’s not to love?

Inside Detroit, that can be a complicated question.

Amid the city’s revival following bankruptcy, some longtime residents are asking: What about us? Rents are rising. And new developments may not only be improving the central city but forcing out longtime residents.

Downtown vs. Neighborhoods likely will be a central theme in Mayor Mike Duggan’s re-election campaign this year. The one-term mayor has demolished nearly 10,000 houses, fixed streetlights and launched programs to increase home ownership, but critics including challenger, state Sen. Coleman A. Young II, say the improvements mostly benefit affluent neighborhoods.

This month, Duggan launched his first targeted neighborhood improvement effort, the $4 million  Fitzgerald neighborhood project, which aims to eradicate blight, landscape vacant lots and install a small park and bike path in the northwest Detroit neighborhoods.

Beneath the debate are hard questions about winners and losers in a chronically poor city, and whether civic improvements inevitably cause gentrification.

Bridge recently spoke to two writers who’ve looked at Detroit’s limited turnaround and drawn different conclusions about it.

Journalist Peter Moskowitz, in his new book “How to Kill a City,” criticizes the resources being focused on Detroit’s core city, in the form of tax breaks, infrastructure improvement and media attention, while outer neighborhoods decline.

Urban-affairs economist Joe Cortright recently wrote an article for City Observatory acknowledging that Detroit’s recovery is unequal but contending recovery of any sort is preferable to the alternative of the last 40 years – continued decline, ever-more-entrenched poverty and all the social ills that follow.

Bridge spoke to both by phone. Their interviews have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Click here for the discussion with Cortright Click here for the discussion with Cortright

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