I spent last week in Detroit with the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity. I had the opportunity to see some ways the private sector is investing in this community in a comeback attempt. As the city rebounds from bankruptcy, there are signs of life and a tremendous potential for renewal.
Even though there is plenty of urban rot throughout Detroit, the remnants of what once was a great city are plenty. This building struck me as a good example. The architecture and detail tell the story of the greatness that once was. The graffiti and the fact that a bail bondsman now is an occupant tell you the current state of not only the building but the city as well.
Many residential areas, which once were rather dense, are now often sparse as a result of abandoned homes and arson. The City of Detroit had 1.8 million residents at its peak in 1950, but as of the 2012 census had only 701,475 residents. This has caused a massive devaluation in the housing market.
Michigan Central Train Station is a monument to Detroit. Once beautiful and bustling, it has been abandoned for years. A monstrosity of reminders are housed in that large building. It opened over a century ago yet now sits there rotting away, fully displaying the pride of what was a great city but has since buckled from the weight of its poor choices.
It’s not hard to understand why Detroit has crumbled. The financial implications of poor management of the auto companies and the high demands of unions caused significant destruction of the industry that built this once great city. Couple that with the very poor choices the residents of Detroit made by electing corrupt officials. The corruption and high income taxes were too much of a burden for the city to carry, eventually leading to its bankruptcy.
When the local economy seemed to bottom out, it attracted investors who smelled opportunity. Dan Gilbert, Chairman of Quicken Loans and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, has been actively investing in Detroit beginning with relocating Quicken Loans Headquarters from the suburbs to downtown Detroit. There are signs of life here, particularly in the downtown area. There are investors who believe in a rebirth of this city.
The state of Michigan threw Detroit a $195 million lifeline. While this solves an immediate need, it may hurt in the long run as there are concerns that the City won’t learn its lesson and will repeat the financial irresponsibility.
Tom LaDuke, a lifelong resident of the area stated,
“The state should be assisting but in no way taking the lead in revitalizing any area let alone Detroit. Get out of the way and let private investment and initiative take charge. “
Ultimately the residents of Detroit must decide to make better decisions in the people they elect. Many residents complained of poor city services, high taxes and red tape. This sort of change starts at the ballot box.
If Detroit is to be reborn, the residents must make better choices.