Monday, February 23, 2009

There's an election, I guess

Prediction: More Detroiters will buy paczkis on Tuesday than vote. For those who do both, Mary Kramer of Crain's Detroit has a thoughtful post on the candidates and the issues. I, too, wish someone would run on her five-point platform:

1. End corruption.

2. Fix the schools.

3. Elect council members by district.

4. Offers primers on business and public policy to city officials.

5. Build regional mass transit.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A grassroots look at the city

Do yourself a favor, and read this wonderful post on Sweet Juniper. The author walks us through the stops of a tour he just gave to a Time Magazine reporter, showing a side of the city that too few ever see, not just nationally but locally. This is the Detroit that fascinates and inspires me, and I wish more people would get a chance, or rather, take the chance, to experience it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Creative class guru predicts Detroit's demise

Richard Florida, the prophet of the creative class, has a new article in the Atlantic, "On How the Crash Will Reshape America." He predicts a reorganization of the American landscape, with power shifting to "mega-regions," like the North Carolina research triangle or the Boston-New York-D.C. corridor, where new economy jobs (think media and information) are most concentrated.

Who will suffer the most? The Rust Belt. Specifically, Detroit:

Perhaps Detroit has reached a tipping point, and will become a ghost town. I’d certainly expect it to shrink faster in the next few years than it has in the past few. But more than likely, many people will stay—those with no means and few obvious prospects elsewhere, those with close family ties nearby, some number of young professionals and creative types looking to take advantage of the city’s low housing prices. Still, as its population density dips further, the city’s struggle to provide services and prevent blight across an ever-emptier landscape will only intensify.
Hm. That rings a bell. Oh wait, that's what's happening already. Still, I'd rather not hear it from a man who just a few months ago was preaching to the choir at the Creative Cities Summit 2.0.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Retail fund to the rescue

There's a new $5 million fund for downtown retail, the News reports. The Detroit Investment Fund will give loans ranging from $50,000 to $500,000 to establish new storefronts in the city's five core neighborhoods -- downtown, Corktown, Midtown, Eastern Market, and the riverfront. Together with new greenways and proposed transit projects, this could keep the downtown area on an upward trajectory. What's still missing, though, is housing. If all the condo and loft deals are dead, who will keep these stores in business? Let's hope the real estate market finally starts to rebound soon.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Don't panic

Lately, it seems another downtown business closes its doors every other day -- Borders, Sweet Georgia Brown, Zaccaro's Market. The Free Press says revitalization has stalled. Even the well received Mercury Coffee Bar shut its doors Monday. Thus began the wailing and gnashing of teeth: downtown is dead, Detroit is doomed.

Let me let you in on a secret. Half of all new businesses fail within four years. And we're in a recession. In fact, the city itself has arguably been in a depression for decades. So while we should celebrate and promote all the new businesses that come on board, there's no need to declare defeat whenever one (or even two or three) shuts down. Just look at the turnover in Royal Oak. A business fails there every month, but no one's writing the downtown's post mortem. It's just the way it goes.

Oh, and Mercury Coffee Bar? It's set to re-open next Friday. It's joined by a fancy new French cafe at Trumbull and Howard in Corktown and a new produce market on John R in Brush Park. Go check 'em out.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Revitalization on hold

The Free Press confirms the obvious today: the revitalization of downtown has stalled. The proposed Cadillac Centre is dead, condos aren't selling, and Quicken's move downtown is highly uncertain. New hotels have opened and DTE renovated its campus, but those projects were underway before credit dried up. Some existing stores are disappearing, too, like the downtown Borders. Development isn't totally dead -- five new coffee shops have opened recently -- but things have sure slowed down.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The state of our state

Granholm's State of the State address went something like this: "Michigan. Brutal. Budget cuts. But jobs! Michigan! Jobs! Michigan! Energy! Jobs! Michigan!" By the end I almost felt employed.

But she only devoted a minute or two to the most critical passage of the speech -- the restructuring of state government. The plan is to reduce the salaries of elected officials by 10%, consolidate 18 state departments into just eight, cut off funding to the state fair, and close three prisons. Those are serious changes, but we never heard the details. And as the business press has complained, the savings aren't sufficient to cover the deficit. I guess the federal stimulus will save us.

Still, I thought it was a solid speech. Serious, well delivered, and relentlessly optimistic without seeming deranged -- a tough feat to pull off in an economy as tanked as ours.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Off the radar

Model D has a roundup of Detroit blogs this week. There are some goodies there, but alas, mine didn't make the cut. So kudos to you, dear readers, for following this blog despite the complete lack of promotion or publicity. The few, the proud, the think Detroiters.