Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Developing Detroit 2: The Cultural Center and Cass Corridor (Midtown)

Much of my childhood and teen years were spent in the area formerly known as The Cultural Center. I listened to fairy tales on the carpet of the Children's Library in Main Library and went to the Detroit Historical Museum for events and crafts. As a teen I spent many days at the DIA and at the Detroit Film Theater. As an adult I brought many children there for the regrettably gone Detroit Festival of the Arts Children's Artist Market, the DIA, and Noel Night for field trips. I worked in the Cultural Center, ate the fabulous food at the International Institute basement when Rita ran it, and shopped in the fabulous tiny UNICEF store. Remember the Red Door? Or the Rhythm Kitchen? The Cultural Center gave birth to techno gatherings and  raves. The Corridor was the hub of the (now relocated) homeless - many of whom are untreated for mental health issues and/or drug addiction, many from the suburbs (shame on us for not taking care of them). The other folks who lived there always seemed so super cool to me, so New York to this neighborhood girl. My life has been enriched by the Cultural Center and I am thankful to all the people who made all those cultural activities possible, often in the face of adversity.

However, there is a new vibe there. One in which I feel like an outsider. Many longtime Detroiters do and I have even heard it from longtime Detroit advocates who live in the suburbs. And we shouldn't. I am not some crabby person who always wants things to stay the same. I love the fact that Detroit is taking steps of growth, but I want to see that growth include the investment in the ideas of longtime Detroiters, especially African American and Latino Detroiters.

Everything about the Cultural Center was about people who pieced it all together, working together to make amazing things happen in Detroit for everyone to enjoy. There was no overriding for profit plan, no big group of developers and foundations steering it, no international marketing scheme. No loan from HUD that is not being paid and jeopardizing other HUD funding.

There is a vast difference between investing in longtime Detroiters and investing in investors. At some point, people who want to invest in Detroit will realize that it is not like investing in other places. For long term sustainability, people here need capital investment, but for small businesses for the people who have lived here a longtime. Discounting the grit and creativity of longtime Detroiters is the number one barrier to Detroit's real comeback. I always say this is no place for cookie cutter urban development. We are the place that makes the cookie cutter if we are ALL included and given opportunity. It is time to ask the goldmine of  longtime Detroiters who are business owners and new entrepreneurs what they need and go from there. If you are looking to invest in Detroit and would like to speak with me about how you can best do that, email me at

See these articles about HUD, Midtown, and Downtown. They speak for themselves.


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