What Matters to a City? Thoughts from Detroit by Alan Mallach, Community Progress Senior Fellow

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Originally posted by Alan Mallach in National Housing Institute’s Rooflines Blog, August 7, 2012

Community Progress Senior Fellow, Alan Mallach, discusses neighborhood decline and revitalization in Detroit in Rooflines, the Shelterforce/National Housing Institute blog. He stresses the importance of the city’s “middle-ground” neighborhoods and the need to stabilize them in order to be socially and economically sustainable.

In the last few months, Neil Peirce’s Citiwire.net has hosted several pieces highlighting positive things happening in Detroit along the lines of “the wave of young and mid-career professionals who’re moving to Detroit.” Having spent much of the last nine months working in Detroit, I found this interesting but questionable. I don’t want to put the writers down, since I appreciate that they are trying to counter a lot of bad media headlines about the city, but what particularly struck me was that all of their good news was emanating out of a small part of Detroit, an upside-down T centering on downtown and Midtown (the area inside the red outline).



Now, areas like Midtown and downtown are not exactly thriving by most standards; both have more than their share of vacant lots and boarded up buildings. But they are starting to draw some market activity, and some — although hardly a wave — young and mid-career professionals. And the revival of Southwest Detroit, which has become a center of Mexican life and activity, is exciting. But it made me wonder.

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