Whether or not we realize it, we all belong to a number of different communities throughout society. The community I belong to is a new and unique family of people working together and individually for the bettering of themselves and the world around them and keeping themselves and their families healthy. They accomplish this by choosing a lifestyle that allows them to maintain a healthy body, mind, spirit and environment they live in. I am proud to say that I am part of this “movement” that is growing and getting stronger every day. My community is working to improve the value of life for ourselves and future generations. I feel very lucky to be living in Midtown Detroit because my community fits in quite well within this historic area. The Detroit community is very friendly toward our community, and we want to bring in as much positivity to the city as we can. The love of the city brings us all together in a desire to make it strive and blossom. Detroit, once a symbol of industrial power and the world’s automotive center, has become a ruined city and an embodiment of the modern urban crisis. The city and its residents are dealing with a crisis that seems to be impossible to defeat. Unemployment, poverty, foreclosures, abandoned streets and homes, lack of decent schools and public services are just some of the problems that need to be resolved, so that Detroit can be transformed back into the thriving city that it once was. Resurrecting Detroit is a topic that is on the minds of many people and organizations, in and outside of the city, that are concerned about the city’s future. People, groups and organizations want Detroit to come back and thrive again. Different individuals and groups propose different solutions on how to bring Detroit back. This abundance of ideas shows that many people desire the resurrection of Detroit. The recent efforts of reviving Detroit aim at renewal and reconstruction of the city as well as resurrection of its spirit. Since the city is facing numerous challenges, reviving it will not be easy or simple. The numerous problems that Detroit needs to overcome before coming back to life are complex and long lived. The transformation of Detroit into the thriving city that it once was may be possible if these problems get resolved. Renewal of the city has great significance for both the state of Michigan and the nation as a whole. Therefore, bringing Detroit back as challenging as it may be is very important and must be undertaken through understanding the problems and addressing them with the solutions that will last and transform the city.
The renewal attempts and projects put in place all have the same goal – rebirth and restoration of the city. The definition of renewal varies based on the people’s views, backgrounds and personal exposure to the city. According to the Online Dictionary, the definition of renewal is “The act of renewing, or the state of being renewed”. Other dictionaries offer slightly different definitions of renewal such as “A change of something old for something new” and “A process of improving, repairing, or making something more successful”. All of these definitions emphasize the element of newness, whether it is a physical aspect that is being renewed or a more abstract element such as a spirit or hope that is given a new beginning. I believe that in the context of rebuilding the city of Detroit the definition of renewal is more meaningful as related to the regeneration of the spirit of unity, hope, ideas and collaboration as compared to the physical rebuilding of the city.
There are several aspects to the notion of renewal. Some people see the process of renewal as bringing the old Detroit back. These people see the renewal in restoring the city’s old buildings, parks, community centers and other physical elements that once identified Detroit as unique. This view of restoring of the city is dependent on the recreation of the old physical traits that Detroit had in the past. Other groups believe that the essence of Detroit’s renewal is in creating a new modern city starting almost from scratch. They want to demolish old structures and buildings, clean the streets and parks and create a new image for the old city. They hope this image will make Detroit more prestigious, successful and will grant it longevity. Still others stand by a proposal to downsize Detroit as if it could solve all the city’s problems and bring upon the renewal. As Greg Lindsey states in his article Demolishing Density in Detroit: Can Farming Save the Motor City, “Unable to provide basic services for all of his constituents, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is drafting plans to starve his city down to a manageable size. Using proprietary data and a survey released by Data Driven Detroit, Bing and his staff will pick “winners and losers” amongst the city’s neighborhoods and seek to resettle residents from the losers, those deemed most unlivable”. The idea that Detroit cannot support its poor neighborhoods seems attractive to the organizations willing to reinvent Detroit. There are still other groups of people who are trying to turn the collapse of the auto industry into an opportunity for a new industry – farming. As the article Future Farmers Feed on Detroit’s Vegetative State describes, the inspirations of one of the pro-green Detroit entrepreneurs, “he … promises to create hundreds of green jobs, grow a surplus of fresh produce for residents, attract tourists, and “reintroduce Detroiters to the beauty of nature.”
All of the views described above emphasize a similar concept which is physical rebuilding of Detroit. The renewal of the city for all of the groups of people is embedded in the external image of Detroit and the tangible aspects of the city. I do believe that it is great to create beautiful shiny buildings and malls, spotless roads and lovely parks, but in my opinion these things need to reflect the city’s spirit and the condition of its residents. The external beauty of the city should mirror the internal one and is a derivative of the inner content. Therefore, I think that the key to renewal of Detroit is in restoring the great spirit of the city’s locals, bringing them together, full of hope and creative ideas, ready to contribute to projects to bring the city back.
Before Detroit’s streets and parks can be restored, its roads, neighborhoods and plazas reinvented or rebuilt, something else has to change. This something is inside our hearts and minds. People who care about renewal of Detroit, no matter what idea of renewal they support, must change their mind set, so that they can open up to other people’s inspirations and ideas. This will bring people together and make them realize that they all have the same goal and same desire which is reviving the city of Detroit. In the long run it does not matter how we are achieving our goal as long as we are willing to listen and help each other. This provides a sense of the same purpose to those involved and creates a synergy of positive powers that is unstoppable in terms of progress. When people collaborate, exchange ideas, and invite new thoughts, the best plans are created and executed. Nothing will renew as much and as well as the spirit of unity, cooperation and creativity. This is what Detroit needs – joined forces of people with different ideas and capacities, all willing to work together and develop the best solution for its renewal. We see a lot of division between all the groups and organization that all believe that their idea of resurrecting Detroit is the best. This is exactly what is holding us back and preventing us from making real progress and improvement on the streets of Detroit and inside its houses.
Hope is a crucial factor in the renewal process. People must hope and aspire in order to accomplish. Hope is a strong motivator and driving force. It gives birth to vision and creates ways of achieving this vision. When people are passionate about their vision, their ideas become contagious, and they affect many people on the outside. This spiritual renewal will work as a support system for the rebuilding of the city as it will have a unifying effect on more people and will involve those affected, which in turn will result in more renewal projects and ideas. In my opinion, physical rebuilding of Detroit cannot succeed without the spiritual revival of the city.
There are many challenges on the road to restoring our ruined and impoverished city. Horrific economy with its unbelievably high unemployment rates, racism that is still dividing people to a great extent, foreclosures, hunger and poverty. The list of the problems at hand is long and scary, but dealing with the problems is worth it for the future of our city. It is also worth leaving our prejudices, stereotypes and selfish convictions behind and joining hands and finding common ground and compromise with one another, so the best solutions to our problems can be found. This is the only way to fix our broken city. A great example of such collaborative efforts was the 2010 US Social Forum that took place in June at Cobo Center. The forum “was a near-perfect model of the sort of dynamic and intensely practical networking that the gathering was organized to foster: creative forms of activism linking up and bridging the divides that too often cripple movement-building efforts…” At the forum “activists who are embattled all year long could for a few days be happy for one another’s company and inspired by one another’s ideas.“ According to Detroit’s Social Forum: Hope in a Crisis by Ben Ehrenreich, the participants were “a far more diverse bunch than can be found at most …gatherings. The marchers in …the opening rally were black, Latino, Asian and white; old and young; gay, straight and transgendered; walking and in wheelchairs.”
The spiritual and mindful renewal will create an awareness of the city’s needs and ways to address them. It will become a powerful foundation in the fight against the devastation and crisis because the people will feel strong and hopeful about overcoming every small and big obstacle on the way. They will know they can rely on support and reassurance of the people they are surrounded by. Our spiritual and mindful awakening should become an example to other cities where people are struggling to resurrect them. Detroit has a powerful symbolic meaning for our country, and therefore should be a role model for others in how to defeat the disaster it is facing. Most importantly, the solution is in us. The most difficult thing is to get over our fears, habitual thinking, and convenient patterns of behavior. We must stop judging others, finding reasons to explain our selfishness, and wasting our energy to discredit others. Instead we must turn this energy into positive action and thinking, acceptance of other people’s ideas and strong desire to work together no matter what. This must be the spirit of rebuilding Detroit. This must be the definition of the renewal of our city that will become beautiful and thriving again if we will focus our minds, hearts and souls just on that. The lustrous buildings, clean streets and gorgeous gardens will follow.
Fortunately, the resurrection of the spirit of rebuilding and renewal of Detroit has already begun and the ideas, the increased cooperation between people, the positivity and hope show that it will inevitably continue growing and strengthening. Following this spiritual upheaval are the action proposals, plans and projects. These proposed solutions are multifaceted and are based on different philosophies.
Some believe that downsizing Detroit is the only way to revive the city while others are convinced that expanding it is the most effective solution. Most of the proposed solutions have both advantages and shortcomings. However, there is a proposal that in my opinion stands out as the one that can really transform Detroit and turn its dreadful condition around. John Hantz, a Detroit businessman, is the man with the vision and the initiator of this proposal. Mr. Hantz is seeking to make over Detroit by converting its vacant land lots into urban farms. The proposal, if implemented wisely and supported by city officials and residents can really renovate Detroit, recreate its image and rebuild the hope and spirit needed so much for the transformation to succeed. I am convinced that the Detroit farming proposal by John Hantz is one of the best solutions for reviving Detroit because it will provide jobs to Detroit’s unemployed residents, supply the city with healthier affordable foods, bring a new stream of tax revenue to the city, beautify the city and make it one of the largest urban centers in America.
The essence of the farming proposal is very simple yet powerful. Its goal is to make use of Detroit’s empty, abandoned and underutilized land lots and transform them into urban farms. As John Hantz describes it, “Detroit could be the nation’s leading example of urban farming… The farm would serve the community, increase the tax base, create jobs and greatly improve the quality of life in an area that has experienced a severe decline in population.” As Hantz suggests, creation of the urban farms in Detroit would bring in a number of opportunities for the city, and these opportunities would address the problems that are continuing to degrade the city.
Unemployment is one of the most difficult problems that Detroit faces. It is a known fact that Detroit has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. More and more jobless people are forced to leave their homes and come up with ways of supporting and providing for their families. As the recession takes its toll, the situation worsens, and there is seemingly no way out. Even though a variety of projects is under way to improve the economical and living conditions of the city’s residents, the measurable results are slow to come. Implementing the farming proposal would turn the situation around. Initially, John Hantz plans to acquire about 30 city blocks on Detroit’s east side and start converting them into urban farms. All of these farms would need a work force to operate and thrive, to produce the crops and get the public involved. “Current estimates put the amount of vacant property in Detroit at 40 square miles, about a quarter of the city’s total land mass. “ If all of this unused land gets utilized, it will provide employment opportunities for thousands of people even in its initial stages. As the farms grow the number of opportunities will grow also.
In recent times Detroit has been going through a healthy food crisis where the city lost the majority of the locally grown and available foods in spite of its agricultural diversity. The farming proposal will provide a unique opportunity to the residents of Detroit to have access to fresh healthy foods and produce that are also economically very affordable. Since the foods will be grown locally in Detroit, no transportation or handling costs will be involved which by default will make the prices inexpensive. In addition, the urban farms will promote the healthy diets and lifestyles, and its workers will educate Detroiters about the benefits of fresh foods and healthy diets. The farms will work with local schools, so that the students can get exposed to the farms’ practices and learn about the farming and benefits of eating fresh high quality fruits and vegetables. “High-end urban agriculture and community farming could play an important role while assuring Detroit citizens have access to a high-quality of life.” The urban farms will encourage the education of people related not only to healthy lifestyles, but also the skills and practices of farming.
Another big problem the city of Detroit is facing is its huge budget deficit. The city does not have enough money to provide basic services such as police and fire protection to its residents. Detroit’s diminishing tax base is not helping the matters. On the other hand, Detroit’s tax payers are responsible for paying tax on these abandoned land properties. If the situation does not change in the near future, the city will go bankrupt and its residents’ condition will hardly improve. The farming proposal appears to be an appropriate solution to this problem. If vacant useless land lots are turned into farms and gardens, the tax base of the city will start increasing. Creating new tax stream revenue will help recover Detroit’s economy quicker. In addition, “the farm would begin to increase the property values.” And this in turn, would increase the tax payment the city would receive.
Detroit farming proposal will offer the city a number of benefits that will help the citizens to restore and reinvent their city. Among many positive changes, the proposal, if implemented, would help the efforts of cleaning, beautifying and revitalizing the dead abandoned areas of Detroit that became symbolic to the image of the city. The burned out neighborhoods would be replaced with beautiful orchards and gardens full of fruits and vegetables. “Near downtown, fruit trees and vegetable farms would replace neighborhoods that are an eerie landscape of empty buildings and vacant lots.” The urban farms can be established and developed relatively quickly, so the visible results can help re-energize the people and serve as an inspiration for collaborative efforts to revive Detroit. As the streets of Detroit become cleaner and greener and more city’s residents get access to fresh healthy inexpensive foods, more people will start believing in resurrecting Detroit.
Detroit has been known to the world as an industrial center and heart of automotive manufacturing. It has been a leader of the industry for many years. The city’s status has changed with its decline. As part of Mr. Hantz’ vision related to his proposal, Detroit will become a national and even world center of progressive urban farming. The farms would work with a newly established research organization that will explore advanced urban farming methods such as aeroponics and hydroponics. The efforts and success of the farming experiment will allow Detroit once again to become an initiator and leader of a new industry. As David Runk suggests in his article Can Detroit Farm its Way Back to Life, “things that were unthinkable are now becoming thinkable”.
I believe the farming proposal has a lot of positive elements that will help revitalize the city in the short term and completely turn it around in the long term. As I compared the proposal to other existing solution ideas, none of them offered as many benefits as Mr. Hantz’s plan. The great value of the proposal is in it accounting for major problems Detroit is facing and offering clear simple resolutions to each one of them. The power of the proposal is in the idea that all of these problems can get resolved by implementing one straightforward concept – the concept of urban farming. Clearing vacant deserted blocks of the city and starting urban farms in their place will trigger a chain reaction of positive changes that will benefit the city and its residents. The city officials are seriously evaluating and considering Mr. Hantz’s proposal. Some decisions need to be made, and plans need to be created before the implementation can start. I believe this proposal will build the road for Detroit’s bright and successful future. This proposal is Detroit’s real chance to gain its power back and become a thriving city once again. Detroit will never be the same as it was before, but it can be as strong and more beautiful, with new industries and influences. It will once again become the popular city where everyone will want to move and enjoy it.
The urban farming proposal is an excellent starting point in the hard work of rebuilding and renewing Detroit, but the city will need other concurrent actions that will work together with the benefits of the farming implementation. Implementing multiple projects on different fronts will provide the sense of the renewing direction, inspire people and allow them to see the results of the efforts sooner rather than later. The synergy of the executed projects will kick off the ultimate return of Detroit.
A comprehensive plan to revitalize the city must be developed. This plan should include action items to address each city problem. Only such an all inclusive plan or proposal can be successful in renewing our city and reimagining it. A wide ranging plan containing an urban farming proposal, a mass transit proposal, and a Detroit public schools proposal among others will tackle the ongoing issues in Detroit and ultimately will build the road to renewal.
There have been a number of different ideas, proposals, and actions put forward by different politicians, business workers, artists, students, and even local residents. These ideas all have the same common goal – resurrecting the city of Detroit, reinventing and renewing it. People of different walks of life want Detroit to survive the crisis it is currently experiencing, so it can continue to be the ground for creativity and innovation that it has always been. This abundance of ideas and proposals reflects people’s concern and awareness regarding the city’s dreadful condition. It indicates that people feel distressed about the degrading situation with the economy, infrastructure, city’s businesses, the people, schoolchildren, and the city’s spirit. The actions suggested for Detroit’s reviving are as plentiful and subjective as the proponents’ perception and understanding of the problems the city faces. Some of the proposals provide better more effective solutions than others. In my opinion, proposals such as urban farming, mass transit and public schools proposals focus on the areas that are critical for survival of the city, and they address the problems in these areas in the most efficient ways. I believe these ideas put to actions can really transform Detroit and turn its falling state around.
One proposal that is already being implemented all over the city is urban farming. Mr. Hantz, a Detroit businessman is behind this idea. The essence of the proposal is to ‘reimagine’ Detroit by converting its vacant land lots into urban farms. The urban farming proposal can benefit and reinvent Detroit in many different ways. As Mr. Hantz suggests, “Detroit could be the nation’s leading example of urban farming… The farm would serve the community, increase the tax base, create jobs and greatly improve the quality of life in an area that has experienced a severe decline in population.”(M.Lewis) Full implementation of the proposal will address the problem of the city’s unemployment as it will provide jobs to Detroit’s unemployed residents. The urban farms will provide the city’s residents and businesses access to the healthier and more affordable foods. Opening urban farms throughout the city will help improve the city’s budget crisis since it will increase Detroit’s tax base by creating new tax stream revenue. Among other positive changes, the proposal would help in the efforts of cleaning, beautifying and revitalizing the dead abandoned neighborhoods of Detroit that became representative to the image of the city. The burned out areas would be replaced with beautiful green orchards and gardens. The urban farming proposal has become very popular among local residents. The idea of growing fresh, easily accessible produce for oneself and one’s family attracts many. Not only are people growing for personal use, but large farms have appeared all over the city. These farms supply local businesses and markets, working together to supply the city’s residents and bring in money for the business owners. The support of local residents and the city’s officials is vital to the success of the urban farming growth, and it appears to be energetic so far in spite of the opposition of some.
One major feature Detroit lacks as a ‘city’ is a reliable system of public transportation. Having a way of getting around the city for its residents would make it look much more as self-sustaining and less ‘abandoned’. Detroit’s poor and unemployed residents find themselves in an endless cycle of being unable to find and maintain a stable job because of lack of transportation. Developing a speedy mass transit system will provide these people a way of getting to and from the employment place. Thus, implementing a wide range reliable public transit network could help resolve some of the unemployment related issues. Implementing a mass transit proposal would help stabilizing abandoned neighborhoods and grow housing as people tend to live around major transportation points. The public transit may attract more people to visit the city more often and, in the long run, could even increase the city’s population. Population growth is one of the major goals for the undertaking of bringing Detroit back as it will revive and turn around Detroit’s economy. Establishing wide public transport system will stimulate the prosperity of the local businesses because more Detroiters will have easier access to them. Among a number of other great things, the mass transport will provide a push for an overall togetherness of its locals. Over the past few years, several ideas have risen to create a light rail system. The reinventing Detroit plan being created by the mayor’s Detroit Works team contains a Woodward corridor project as the starting point of the mass transit implementation. As Cece Grant suggests in the article Re-Detroit, “Rome wasn’t built in a day… I believe that the Woodward Corridor is just the start. Once people see all of the excitement, all of the development that comes around the Woodward Corridor, it’s going to be a lot easier to duplicate that success along other corridors in other neighborhoods… ”
Another serious problem that Detroit faces is that of the Detroit Public School system. The system has deteriorated so badly that it cannot serve the purpose that it is meant to fulfill. Not only is the system going through a devastating financial and corruption crisis, but its academic performance has dropped to the lowest level possible. Drop-out rates are continuously increasing as overall academic performance is decreasing. To quote Robert Bobb, the state- appointed emergency financial manager of Detroit Public Schools, from the article Can Robert Bobb Fix Detroit’s Public Schools, “the system is academically bankrupt. This is almost academic homicide…” Another serious issue related to the education is that the schools are not able to prepare the current generation kids for the big challenges of the future. “Many adults lack the basic skills necessary to qualify for the high-tech jobs officials are desperately trying to attract to Michigan, which has the U.S.’s highest unemployment rate.”(S. Gray) The situation with the public schools has been causing the fleeing of the Detroit population to the suburbs. The level of education offered is not and cannot be satisfying to families aspired to give their children better choices in life. Robert Bobb, appointed for his job by Jennifer Granholm, has created a proposal to get the system back in order. Bobb’s plan is focused on two major goals: restructuring nearly bankrupt financial system of Detroit public schools and saving some money, and significantly improving the academic performance of Detroit schools. Implementing the proposal and raising the academic performance levels will have much positive impact on the revival of the city. The Detroit residents will have a strong incentive to stay in the city, and former Detroit families living elsewhere may decide to come back to the city. Therefore, execution of the Detroit public schools proposal will stabilize and hopefully increase the population of the city, and will be a factor in stabilizing and growing neighborhoods. It will also address the issue of lacking basic skills by the school graduates where they will enter the challenging real world better prepared and positioned for the demands of the job market.
All of the proposals described above, if executed correctly, have a lot of potential to turn around the condition of Detroit and start reshaping it into an even more beautiful and successful city that it was before. The power of these proposals is not only in what each of them has to offer individually, but even more in their synergy. If implemented together, I really believe they can create a greater and brighter future for the city. The success of these plans put together is in their focus on the major problems that Detroit is going through – unemployment, poverty, hunger, housing, abandoned neighborhoods, schools, and many others. We need to have faith in these plans and support them as much as we can. We should create the spirit of cooperation, hope, and connectedness in the efforts to resurrect our victimized Detroit. I truly believe our city has much to look forward to.
The meaning and significance of Detroit is too great for America to turn away from the city and let it perish. It’s one of the country’s most important and most symbolic cities, and it must be revived, renewed and re-established no matter how difficult the process of this restoration will be. My community, side by side with others, in and outside Detroit, is striving to make a difference and contribute to either generation of the ideas that will benefit the city or the actions that will begin the mission of bringing Detroit back. This paper hopefully shed some light on the core problems that have weakened Detroit and continue to deteriorate it. It also attempted to step outside of the disputes, discussions, negotiations and blame game and examine the universal concepts that help people to get through the challenging times. These concepts are ones of hope, peace, faith, cooperation, collaboration, inspiration and great positive spirit. Detroit lacks these things and therefore is not capable of quick and painless recovery. This paper emphasized the importance of renovating and re-energizing the spirit in the process of renewal of Detroit. Best proposals as action plans have been discussed, and it was argued how they will stimulate the renovation and rejuvenation of the city. It is the author’s hopes that the audience will pick up the vibe communicated in this paper and will carry on the feeling of hope and persistence, positivity and support for the future of Detroit. Detroit must go on. It is well worth it.
Steven Gray, Can Robert Bobb Fix Detroit’s Public Schools, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1953694,00.html
Mark Lewis, Businessman pitches urban farm proposal for Detroit, http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20090402/free/904029981/businessman-pitches-urban-farm-proposal-for-detroit#
Sandra Svoboda, Metrotimes, Re-Detroit Seeking the Vision for a Revitalized City, Nov 17-23, 2010
Alethia Carr, Detroit: The Business of Urban Agriculture, http://www.foodandsocietyfellows.org/digest/article/detroit-business-urban-agriculture
Eleonor Smith, John Hantz,
David Runk, Can Detroit Farm its Way Back to Life?