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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Future for State Fair?

As you may recall, last year the Governor decided not to provide any funding for the annual state fair (the nation's oldest), effectively putting it out of business. The early intention was to redevelop the fairgrounds into something else, as if there isn't enough vacant, useless land in the city waiting to be developed. Thankfully, it looks like there might be a good solution on the horizon, as the Huron-Clinton Metroparks board may take it over and turn it into a full time park while continuing the fair. I hope it works out.

See the Free Press article for more details:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Top airport

This week, a new JD Power study has concluded that Detroit's airport was the best in the country last year. The new North Terminal helped a lot, I think, since any traveler who doesn't fly Northwest/Delta used to go to Smith - now they have a nice shiny terminal. Hopefully, we can attract more airline activity and Detroit can be a bigger hub, spurring some economic development. Aerotropolis, here we come!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Going, going..back back..

Here's a short op-ed piece in the NYTimes that caught my attention. I thought the story brought up some interesting points in terms of the types of people moving back into the city and the reasons why, which may also be related to the recent attention Detroit has been given on young and new entrepreneurship:

Op-Ed Contributor
Snowbirds Come Home to Roost
Published: February 20, 2010

RON AND PATTY COOLEY met and fell in love 42 years ago as students at Eastern Michigan University. After a stint at Ford in the early ’70s, they left Detroit behind, taking over her family’s modest real estate business upstate. The company prospered: for 30 years the two worked together, helping to finance, build and sell more than 1,000 homes.

With their two sons grown, Ron and Patty sold the business and semi-retired down to Naples, Fla. Ron took up golf, sometimes seven days a week, occasionally 36 holes in a day. Patty gardened. Their lives in the Sunshine State were relaxed and tranquil, the sort of serene ending that retirement brochures promise to us all. But, unsurprisingly, the collapse of the housing market had a serious impact on a couple with a nest egg tied up in real estate.

Ron and Patty looked around and did the math. Florida’s economy seemed to be declining even more steeply than the Motor City’s. In Detroit, they had roots, their sons had moved into the city and started a barbecue restaurant, grandchildren had arrived. So, weighing their options, they came back. They moved into a downtown loft, just a few blocks from the empty lot where Tiger Stadium once stood.

I first encountered Ron and Patty at an early morning fund-raiser for a neighborhood charity. Talking to them, I found that just like other new arrivals — the artists and recent college graduates coming here from other towns — they spoke of Detroit’s potential with an almost exalted optimism. Instead of depressing or slowing them down, the move has been a thrilling one and they shared examples of how exhilarating their life is downtown.

Being at the center of things means they can walk to the Avalon bakery on Saturday mornings and to the new Comerica Park for baseball games in the spring. Instead of endless golf, they now go to events like the fund-raiser where we met or lectures on design and sustainable development.

Talking about Florida, Ron sounds like someone who made it onto the lifeboat in the nick of time. Yes, they had to sell their home down there at a loss, but a former neighbor in Naples recently sold a similar house for less than half of what the Cooleys got. Ron estimates that with the nation’s battered 401(k) accounts, it could take decades before Florida returns to any sort of substantial growth.

Meanwhile, Patty and Ron are helping their sons expand their restaurant to a new location. Patty is involved in the local school system’s literacy program. Ron enjoys walking down the street to spend time with his grandchildren, the kind of time that, in his ambitious, younger days, he didn’t get to have with his own boys.

In the nation’s shared imagination, Detroit continues to be worse than a punch line — it’s an apocalyptic wasteland teetering right at the edge of the end of the world. When people hear that I live downtown, they ask, “Where do you get your groceries?” and “Where do you get your dry cleaning done?” and when I answer “Well, at the grocery store and the dry cleaners,” they simply look confused. In fact, few can imagine living a life here.

The truth is that my Detroit — and Ron and Patty’s Detroit — might no longer be a city where dreams come true the way they once did. But this story still demonstrates some important things: how lives and businesses can thrive here, how rewarding it can be to have family close and, at the very least, how nice it is that we’re not in Florida.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Reimagining Detroit

I saw in today's News that Time Magazine and the Brookings Institute are hosting a panel discussion today called "Reimagining Detroit." It should be interesting and I encourage whoever can make it to attend. The focus will be on downsizing, I think. The Mayor and others will be there. Here are the details from the AP:

DETROIT — Time magazine and Brookings Institution host panel discussion titled “Reimagining Detroit: Making Washington a Partner in Detroit’s Next Economy,” featuring Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and others. 4 p.m. College for Creative Studies’ Alfred Taubman Center, Argonaut Building, 460 W. Baltimore. Contact: RSVP to RSVPAssignDetroit(at)

In other news, a Free Press writer is calling for Michigan to memorialize Malcolm X ( - I quite agree, although he probably had more of an impact in other places.

Social impact of Great Recession

Read a great, very interesting piece in the Atlantic today. It discussed the social impacts of this recession on America. Not directly related to Detroit, but as we are at the epicenter of the Great Recession, the analysis is especially relevant. Here is the link:

Some highlights to learn from:
  • As a nation, we have not yet recovered from 2001 recession - incomes at 1997 levels in real terms
  • National underemployment over 17%, higher for minorities, young adults, men
  • Unemployment may stabilize at permanently higher rates than in the past (up to 7.5% could be "normal")
  • No clear model for continued US economic growth - lost decade likely for nation
  • Job deficit of 10 million; need 125 k per month just to employ new entrants
  • 2000s fueled by easy growth - innovation has lagged
  • "national experiment on stress"
  • 20s in youth changing - post-college funemployment, less responsibilities (delayed marriage, kids)
  • Those who enter workforce in a recession will permanently and arbitrarily be at salary/pay disadvantage to those who entered in a boom-time - luck, psychological effects (e.g., negative perceptions from lower initial job; tendency to hold onto jobs longer for security; most wage growth happens before 30)
  • Young people too coddled - expect to put in less, get everything - everyone is "special" - entitlement rather than individualism and decision-making
  • College grads crowded out by experiened professionals and newer grads without gaps on resume
  • Deep psychological and physical impacts of layoffs and unemployment - laid off people will have shorter life expectancies, higher mortality rates
  • Profound stresses on marriage for male unemployment - 19.4% of all men from 25-54 are unemployed - women dominated fields have been stable vs. male dominated fields
  • Both men and women are happier and more satisfied when men are working
  • Particular social issues for working-class communities
  • Marriages among impoverished have fallen, but child-birth rates have not
  • Urban blight is spreading to previously flourishing working class neighborhoods
  • Racisim, intolerance likely to rise
  • Many other interesting insights...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Urban farming event today

There is a workshop today in Beverly Hills, MI, at the Birmingham Conference Center held by a group called "Metropolitan Agriculture"

There will be a discussion about how urban agriculture can contribute to sustainable development. This workshop is one of six planned globally, and the only one in the US. If anyone is interested in urban agriculture, it might be interesting to attend. Hantz Farms is also participating.