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Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

First Time to the D by Alan Sage

[ This week I kick off another two part mini-series on a city from guest authors, this time Detroit. First up this travel piece from Yale undergrad Alan Sage. Next week Pete Saunders will check in with a book review - Aaron. ]

In the urban studies seminar I took last semester, our professor saved one day of class to tackle a surprise subject, one he would choose about a week before based on what the urbanist community was most heatedly debating at the time. So it came as no surprise when he sent out Philipp Oswalt’s opus on shrinking cities and announced we would be discussing Detroit.

Coming into such a wide field as urban studies, especially in a school where there’s no cohesive urban studies program but rather a smorgasbord of classes in various departments catering to specific interests, caused me a fair degree of trouble in deciding where to focus my attention. But the idea of shrinking cities captivated me immediately, as I imagine it has many other urbanists, perhaps because it is so simple a problem yet spawns infinite creative solutions. Ideas like urban farming appeal to my analytical side: there’s a poetry to the simple theory that as land value returns to the level at which it depends on what the land can produce rather than larger economic forces, its owners ought to appropriate its usage accordingly. Neighborhood stabilization techniques involving the eased acquisition of adjacent vacant properties, like the one Mayor Dave Bing is piloting right now, offer the same beautiful simplicity, harking to the idea of country estates, now economically possible given Detroit’s current land values.

But as these ideas captivated me, I realized that they might make sense theoretically but not practically; after all, while it’s great if a farm can bring fresh produce to a food desert, one doesn’t necessarily want to be walking by cornfields in inner-city Detroit after coming home from a late show, and who knows what kind of brownfield remediation expenses might be required. Filled with questions like these, I decided I would make a trip to Motown during spring break to see the much-discussed metropolis with my own eyes. After some attempts to convince my academic compatriots that the Motor City promised everything anyone could want in a college spring break, I realized I would be voyaging alone. But that was okay—for my French class, I had been watching a language learning program called French in Action, a story which centers on an amicable college student named Robert who takes a semester off from school to travel alone to Paris and “find himself.” I figured I would create my own version of French in Action, promenading on Woodward, Grand River, Gratiot, Michigan, and Jefferson: the Champs-Élysées equivalents of a city once called the Paris of the Midwest.

I landed at Wayne County Metropolitan around one in the afternoon on a hazy Tuesday, armed with a backpack and the address of Hostel Detroit, a quirky lodging in Corktown that seemed to be the perfect fit for my purposes. As my cab exited the Fisher Freeway onto Rosa Parks Street, the driver asked me if I had ever been there before. He seemed a bit disconcerted about my purposes for going to the desolate locale in “North Corktown” (the “East Williamsburg” equivalent of Detroit). The hostel inhabits the northeast corner of Vermont and Spruce, streets whose names invoked in my mind the images of a bustling American downtown. But other than the hostel, the other corners are all barren lots.

I heard the faint hum of French Canadian radio as I entered the hostel’s welcoming common room. I sought out the source of what sounded like Edith Piaf and found Michel Soucisse, Hostel Detroit’s skinny-as-a-twig manager, whose patronizing “Oh baby, this is Detroit” I would come to expect as the consistent answer to my naïve questions about Motown.

I dropped my bag on the bed and Michel laid out a guide to Detroit on the table. I told him a bit about my urban studies background, and so he shared his thoughts on living in a shrinking city. Originally from Quebec, he told me that Detroit was a place where people who’ve rejected mainstream society can come to create a society based on alternative principles. I received my first “Oh baby” when I asked him how often the 37-Michigan bus comes and how I should plan on getting around the city.

Equipped with knowledge of which restaurants warranted a visit, I left the hostel and headed to Mudgie’s, a “high ideal” deli serving up large quantities of locally grown produce. Along the way, I traversed Michigan Avenue, which felt safe but a bit unsuitable for walking on account of the building-street width ratio. I realized I wasn’t all that familiar with this sort of uncomfortable walking sensation, having spent my childhood in New York, a city where building heights are rarely low enough to offer pedestrians that undesirable sensation.

The crowd at Mudgie’s was surprisingly diverse. I knew Detroit was a 80-plus percent African-American city, but having seen the handiwork of gentrifiers in New York I expected there to be a hard-and-fast divide between the different communities. (Anyway, if you find yourself in the neighborhood, the Ivy was a delicious vegetarian option at Mudgie’s.)

My sojourn next lead me to the People Mover, an infamous transportation folly that I felt obliged to experience. It was while riding up the escalator at the Fort/Cass station that I had the first taste of the eerie aesthetic of Detroit. The downtown is much like a 70s science fiction fantasy, what with an automated monorail that no one rides and the GM skyscrapers at the Renaissance Center, which seem like a lair of evil if there ever was one. Beneath Detroit’s drôle de métro, it seemed like the elite presided over a dystopian empire of misery. I certainly hope I don’t sound like a proponent of ruin porn, but I’m not trying to separate the city’s inhabitants from the changes in its built environment. Rather, this sci-fi-esque ambiance is a product of urban planning initiatives that sought to turn downtown Detroit into a safe haven for the elite completely separate from other residents of the hulking metropolis. The People Mover and skywalk systems seem designed to allow people never to have to set foot on the once mean streets of downtown, and any economic development professional can tell you this means less potential for small businesses to profit off of foot traffic. And the Renaissance Center doesn’t exactly invite pedestrians to enter after stepping off of a DDOT bus—I certainly felt uninvited as I attempted to cross Jefferson Avenue on a windy afternoon.

My first night in the Motor City concluded at Seva, a vegetarian restaurant behind a trendy gallery in Midtown, Detroit’s culture capital. As I nursed a glass of $3 rosé, I felt like Robert in French in Action as he nursed a kir in the Closerie des Lilas. I think part of why I continually felt a similarity between Paris and Detroit resided in the sense that both feel like places one goes to find oneself. Both are cities of great reputation, one famous and one infamous, but nonetheless places where it feels like incredible events are always on the brink of occurring.

I hopped on the 53-Woodward bus after dinner, and switched at the Grand Circus to the 18-Fenkell. Ford Field and Comerica Park were both nearby, and as I waited for the 18 I ruminated on what had led planners to place large temporal structures in the heart of downtown Detroit. It seemed as if in the great urban redevelopment efforts of Detroit planners had thought very “approximately” about the effect of projects. Sure, the People Mover certainly seems like it would attract riders since it goes to all the important downtown sights, but if every place it goes to is within a 10 minute walk why would anyone waste the time to take the train? Stadiums seem like they’ll revitalize a city since they attract large crowds, but they’re temporal structures, only serving their intended function for a small percentage of the time. Of course very few structures serve their purpose 24 hours a day (which is why planners prefer mixed-use developments these days), but any sports arena will be on the far low end, only attracting large crowds at very, very specific times, rarely for long enough to spur much by way of nearby development.

After a surprisingly restful night in the hostel’s group room, I started my morning off with breakfast at a coffee shop on Larned Street right under the People Mover. After some thoroughly mediocre over-medium eggs and a cup of hot, black coffee, I headed over to the Rosa Parks Transit Center, where I would dérive around the city, taking whatever bus line caught my eye. On a whim I eventually chose the 48-Van Dyke/Lafayette.

After leaving downtown, we passed by tranquil Lafayette Park, which my professor from freshman year (and esteemed urban planner in New York) Alexander Garvin had described as a truly successful towers-in-the-park project. It turned out Michel lived in Lafayette Park, and told me he would never reveal how little he paid for rent lest New Yorkers descend upon a too-good-to-be-true deal. Michel told me an older resident of Lafayette Park once told him that news of the ’67 riots didn’t reach the neighborhood until well after the fact. I commented that it seemed secluded and lacking much by way of commerce, and Michel agreed, but added that it wasn’t a problem since there were a few grocery stores within a few miles drive. Perhaps the rules of mixed development that have such profound impacts in walkable cities don’t quite apply in the kingdom of cars.

Soon the #48 bus entered the East Side of Detroit that is familiar to followers of the mainstream media. I suppose I would be rehashing to write in detail about the rows of empty lots, burnt out buildings, and high ratio of abandoned to occupied commercial structures. But one aesthetic element I found particularly captivating was the design of store signs: a good many of them are hand-drawn. Although these weren’t the districts conquered by the creative class, I was reminded of what Michel had told me about Detroit being a place full of creative freedom. In Detroit, land is cheap enough that people can start the kind of grocery store for which a whimsical, hand-drawn advertisement is more appropriate than computer-generated signage. These ideas were confirmed when I visited Heidelberg Street the following day.

The landscape felt absurd as we passed a stretch of Van Dyke adjacent to an almost completely-vacated district, not too far from City Airport. We paused at a railroad crossing, and everyone moaned as the lights started flashing and the arms came down. But a sigh of relief was breathed when the engine revealed itself not to be dragging a long train, but a single car. The ambiance of the moment and surrounding area made me feel a bit like I was in a Don Delillo novel; there was a certain absurdity to the colorful abandoned storefronts in the midst of empty grids and frequent railroad crossings serving ever-decreasing quantities of freight. I imagined a future in which the bus would pause for the passage of an engine carrying absolutely nothing. If planned shrinkage were ever to be politically feasible, I imagine some of these neighborhoods near the airport would be the first to go.

After my trip through the East Side, I walked through the Eastern Market, which sadly wasn’t open on a Tuesday, looking for somewhere to lunch. The deeply industrial feel of the area struck me. Huge trucks passed up and down Russell, and the sheds where the farmer’s market is held on Saturday were gargantuan. I was expecting to see the touristy sort of farmer’s market one finds in New York, which is more to offer the luxury of fresh produce than to serve any sort of utilitarian purpose. But Detroit’s Eastern Market is a powerhouse of commerce, a market to rival any of the greats in Taiwan or China.

I ended up dining at a Thai place called Sala Thai housed in the abandoned Fire House No. 5. After a quick Pad Thai, I went back to the hostel and then on a long walking tour of Woodbridge. Having wandered around the digital streets of Detroit on Google Maps before arriving in person, I imagined Woodbridge and Corktown as some of the most dangerous areas. They seemed to possess a great deal of urban prairie, and like a good student of Jane Jacobs, I posited this would mean fewer eyes on the street and thus danger. But something very strange has happened in a city shrinking as fast as Detroit: there are so few people in these districts that emptiness doesn’t mean danger. In that regard, it really is a lot like the countryside. Not to mention the clear lines of sight created by having empty lots in every direction.

When Michel told me what areas of the city to avoid, he explained that the parts generally regarded as most dangerous were those that formed a belt around the city. The far western parts of the city near Evergreen; the northern parts around 7 Mile and Dexter; and the eastern parts around Mack Avenue and Gratiot. Even a quick YouTube search on Detroit hip-hop will present one with rappers citing these neighborhoods as particularly infamous and dangerous to reckon with. One song is titled the “Linwood Dexter Way”; another simply “I’m from Seven Mile”; and there’s even a group called the “Gratiot Boyz.” But Woodbridge isn’t one of those areas a rapper would feel legitimate citing as perilous. A Buddhist temple and art galleries have felt comfortable entering the area, so I don’t imagine crime is at the kind of level where it becomes a daily concern in a resident’s life. The idea that what I’d dare call the least desirable neighborhoods (with a few exceptions, like the choice Palmer Woods areas) are in immediate proximity of the suburbs was certainly counter-intuitive to me. Cities very often disobey the notion of gradients one might expect to find.

My tour of Woodbridge concluded in Midtown, and as it was getting late, I stopped at Slow’s “To Go,” a branch of the famous barbeque joint whose ability to lure suburbanites to Corktown went as far as to attract the Times’ attention. I savored their delectable veggie chicken as I waited for the 16-Dexter bus on Cass Avenue. Of all the streets I saw in Detroit, I think Cass Avenue might have the greatest potential to be reborn as a vibrant urban thoroughfare. Its downtown portion offers sights of incredible architecture, like the dilapidated Hotel Eddystone. Up a little north, it passes by some quirky shops and a loft development on Canfield. Then you’ve got the university, the Detroit Institute of Arts (D.I.A.), and the Museum of Contemporary Art just a short walk away in Midtown, and the New Center at the end of Cass. I imagine other urban planners have had the same idea, since the Techtown incubator is located near the northern end of Cass. Combine all this with the street’s relatively small width, making it friendly to pedestrians, and pretty frequent transit service on the 16 line, and you’ve got a killer boulevard.

My last day in the D Michel gave me a tour of his favorite Detroit spots in his car, starting on Belle Isle and traveling through the Villages near the Manoogian Mansion. But he concluded his tour on Heidelberg Street, which remains my most prominent memory of this short adventure. For those unfamiliar with the Heidelberg Project, it’s the brainchild of an artist named Tyree Guyton, who came back to the neighborhood he grew up in after serving in the army during the Vietnam War only to find his neighborhood ravaged by the riots and ensuing neglect. And thus he unwittingly became one of the grandfathers of tactical urbanism, picking up a jar of paint and drawing polka dots on an abandoned house. Before long, he had transformed an entire street of abandoned houses into a tremendous art exhibit, and not one easily understood. The pieces range from the surreal to the deeply political, with human-sized fake syringes sticking out of the grass in one section, and stuffed animals overflowing from a house in another. Some of the project was destroyed by Coleman Young in the name of urban planning, but thankfully it still survives today, constantly changing with the whims of Tyree and the other artists who’ve collaborated on the Heidelberg Project.

To me, Heidelberg Street represents a deeply political reclamation of urban space, a willingness to take the built environment and make it represent the true feelings of a neighborhood, rather than paint over suffering in the name of improving the city. In the end, Heidelberg Street has achieved its artist’s goal of getting people to come into a neighborhood they once feared (and perhaps still fear), simply because it’s too original to miss. If it does contribute to the blight, which it may, its honesty makes it worth it.

I spent my last few hours in Detroit wandering up and down Woodward Avenue, taking in the much-celebrated Diego Rivera mural at the D.I.A. and visiting the old Fisher Theater in the New Center. I even stopped by a crêperie called “Good Girls Go to Paris” on Woodward Avenue, just for the sake of completing my French in Action fantasy.

At the end of the trip, I realized I wanted to write a piece about my experiences in the Motor City, capitalizing on the fact that I was there for a short enough time to have a feel for my visceral reactions—the emotions that would accompany a longer stay don’t cloud my vision. In my urban studies classes, I’ve found we as students have a tendency to confound the questions of how we do change a city in such-and-such way with how we should change a city.

They’re very different questions, and I think that at the end of the day planners should be concerned with how we do accomplish the feat rather than what feat we’re aiming for—that’s a decision for the citizenship. Thus I tried my very best to use my immediate feelings about Motown to guide my urban theory. If at the end of the day, Detroiters think the creative class is a plus for the city, simply because they expand the tax base, then that’s a decision they’ll have to weigh against gentrification. As a budding urbanist, my goal is to understand where each of these decisions may lead.

Alan Sage is an undergraduate at Yale University. He edits the Urban Collective blog for Yale’s urban studies organization.

26 Comments
Topics: Urban Culture
Cities: Detroit

26 Responses to “First Time to the D by Alan Sage”

  1. John Morris says:

    Nice, a pretty in depth short tour.

  2. John Morris says:

    I guess the huge thing you didn’t visit was The Russell Industrial complex which seems to be the heart of a DYI business explosion.

    I guess one would need to be invited in by a tenant or given a tour.

    http://www.modeldmedia.com/features/russell129.aspx

  3. AIM says:

    Too bad that you couldn’t be at the Eastern Market on a Saturday in the summer. The Russell Industrial Center that John references is about 3 miles north of the Eastern Market on I-94. It’s on the edge of Hamtramck.

  4. mythago says:

    I concur re Eastern Market.

    I am thoroughly baffled, though, at the writer’s decision to plop down into Detroit and only then figure out how to get around, assuming public transit would be out there somewhere. It’s the Motor City. Public transit has ALWAYS been terrible in Detroit, even when the economy was booming.

  5. John Morris says:

    I think that was pretty intentional, to see the city as it really is. A city that requires big planning just to get around has big problems.

  6. Emelen says:

    Any photos from your travels?

  7. Eve says:

    “The crowd at Mudgie’s was surprisingly diverse. I knew Detroit was a 80-plus percent African-American city, ”

    Technically, a city that’s 80% black is no more diverse than one that’s 80% white…

  8. Arun says:

    “A city that requires big planning just to get around has big problems.”

    It doesn’t require much planning. The plan is, buy a car. :-)

  9. Andy says:

    This was fantastic. I really respect Alan’s courage and adventurousness not only in electing such an unusual spring break destination but also in choosing to get around by the DDOT system. (Frankly, I’m pleasantly surprised he was able to get around at all by DDOT in its current state.) I don’t think I’ve ever encountered such a thorough, objective, informed and thoughtful discussion of the Detroit experience from this particular perspective.

    I agree with the 2 other commenters re: Eastern Market. Experiencing Eastern Market on a Saturday turns the visitor’s experience and perceptions of Detroit upside down.

  10. John Morris says:

    “The plan is, buy a car.”

    Another plan is not to visit. How is Detroit’s car plan working?

    I agree, that it’s the rare visitor who will do what this writer did. I do think it’s the right way to understand how the city works at the ground level.

  11. Sylvia Darling says:

    You started with the comment ” But the idea of shrinking cities captivated me immediately, as I imagine it has many other urbanists, perhaps because it is so simple a problem yet spawns infinite creative solutions. And I wonder if you still think it is a simple problem. Believe me those from Detroit and those planners trying to figure it out would not use the term simple problem to describe it. I am a master of community development student in the city and the causes and complexities that brought and keep the city in its condition are anything but simple, and neither are the answers.
    When you spoke of walkable communities and maybe in it does not apply in the kingdom of cars, No it does! Majority of residents depend on the horrible bus system or use bikes and walk to meet their daily needs. Some time after the 67 Riot all the major grocery stores left the city and the city was lucky that a group of Caledeans stepped in and fill the gap, but the stores are widespread and definately not walkable for most, so many are trying to get by with the corner liqour/convenience store.
    For a short visit you cover a lot of ground. As far as the creative class I think this city completely embraces them for who they are and how they give depth to our lives, such as the Heidenberg project, but also many other areas, the area in Midtown at Seva’s is being redeveloped by locals and included artists who know what it gives to the heart of city, the revenue aspect is down on the list. I have met the artist of the gallery you mentioned, an amazing down to earth man who wants to give to his community. The Garden Theatre Project was started and morphed from the heart of a man who felt art was good for the heart of people. Many of these developers are merely paying the loans, and have deferred any money to themselves for many years into the future. So please know they want to stir the economy by providing jobs, but that does not mean lining their own pockets, they are doing what they do because they like art and culture is good for the soul of the city collectively and individually.
    But glad you stayed at the hostel, it was started by one of our graduates.

  12. Alan Sage says:

    Hi all,

    @John and AIM: Thanks for alerting me to the Russell Industrial Complex–I hadn’t heard of it, and come to mention it, I’m surprised they didn’t tell me about it at the hostel, since they told me about pretty much everything like that. You’re probably right that you have to know someone to let you in. And I certainly hope to return on a Saturday at some point in the future so I can really experience the Eastern Market.

    @Mythago and Arun: As far as why I chose to explore Detroit on foot instead of by car, the simple answer is that I don’t yet have my license. And I certainly would have been able to do more exploration if I had had one. But as I mentioned in the piece, since I knew I wouldn’t be there for a long enough time to know the city as a resident, I tried as much as possible to experience the city as a tourist. Maybe it’s just my experience traveling around Europe and the East Coast, but it seemed like using public transit would enhance that feeling of being a tourist, really just a traveler experiencing the city in a leisurely way.

    @Emelen: Yes, I uploaded some photos to the blog I edit for Yale Urban Studies: you can find them at http://yaleurbancollective.tumblr.com/

    @Eve: I agree that in that sense the city isn’t diverse. It is just my experience in New York that a largely-white gentrifying class has often been responsible for the displacement of African-American households that have lived in neighborhoods for generations. Based on my short visit to Mudgie’s, which isn’t evidence of anything as much as invitation for comments on whether Detroit differs from New York, it seemed like either the gentrifying class was more diverse or they were getting along better with original residents.

    @Andy: Thanks for your support! As far as DDOT, I was lucky that most of the “essential” traveling I had to do was on the #16, #18 and #53, all of which were surprisingly reliable during my stay. Based on their schedules and locations, I assume they’re some of the better used lines and this explains my relative ease.

    @Sylvia: I apologize for perhaps not clearly explaining what I meant by simple in regard to shrinking cities. When I said the problem was simple, I was referring more to how planners view the situation before acting. That is, a shrinking city is simply a city suffering severe population loss. The causes, just as the solutions, are complex: they range from excessive tourism in Venice to the whole slew of racism/globalization/movement of factories that afflicted Detroit. But at the end of the day, the results are the same: people leave. That’s what I meant by simple, and I completely agree with you that the causes are extremely complex–I’m in the midst of reading “Origins of the Urban Crisis” at the moment.

    Thanks for all the feedback everybody! I really appreciate it, and will continue to respond.

  13. John Morris says:

    @Alan Sage

    I believe there are more events and gallery openings happening at The Russell Industrial Center.

    http://ricdetroit.org/2010/?id=events

    I also think they have or will be having DIY and craft fair type events.

    The place is filling up pretty nicely with I think about a million square feet leased out now.

    My guess is the management would be open to giving a tour or could hook you up with some contacts.

  14. Matt says:

    @Alan Sage

    So would you come back? Great piece by the way. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and as a writer myself, I can definitely catch the similarities between the city and a Don DeLillo novel.

  15. Jimmy says:

    What you have to understand about the lack of ‘gradient’ in Detroit is that we don’t have one. 8 Mile is, historically, where the ‘gradient’ flipped from black to white in dramatic fashion. So that’s why the least desirable neighborhoods are the farthest from the city center.

  16. Carie says:

    Thanks for this. It’s interesting to see my city through the eyes of another. Especially someone who isn’t focusing on ruin porn, gentrification, political corruption and the like. Just a summary of what was seen, and what was felt.

  17. Eric says:

    If I hear about gentrification in Detroit one more time I’m going to lose it. Visit non-Midtown/Corktown neighborhoods and the thought that gentrification is occuring will quickly dissipate. The creative class bringing back Detroit is a nice theory, but cities can’t survive without middle to upper income residents and the tax base that goes with it. Detroit is not some abstract lesson to be learned. It experienced what most developed cities did in the 1960′s-1980′s. It just hasn’t recovered because the problems (crime, schools, unemployment) are so widespread.

  18. John Morris says:

    My honest advice Eric is just to stay out of town. Many, many areas like the South Bronx, Bushwick, Bed Stuy, Crown Heights seemed beyond hope to many not long ago. Projects like this are not for everyone.

    If you want to say, the path is not easy or that Detroit will not be what it was, you have a point. To say it is not or cannot improve is equally off base.

  19. John Morris says:

    The more than million square feet of leased space filled with artists, filmakers, design firms and all kinds of craft manufacturers in The Russell Industrial Center is not in Midtown or Corktown as far as I know.

  20. Andy says:

    Ditto Eric on #17. I have yet to see anything but anecdotal evidence to support the idea that Detroit is experiencing anything that can properly be termed gentrification. Gentrification implies rising rents/property values that are sufficient to cause residents/businesses to have to move out of a neighborhood entirely. I am happy to be proven wrong if there is indeed (non-anecdotal) evidence this is occurring.

  21. John Morris says:

    OK, so let’s say it shows early signs of improvement and investment in some areas. Gentrification is a loaded and abused term.

  22. John Morris says:

    @Andy

    By nature, Gentrification implies that there were prior residents and or tenants to be displaced. In the case of Detroit, isn’t one seeing the rehabing of underused and or totally abandoned properties in and near the downtown/midtwon area?

    The whole term is not very useful to describe the conversion of often unoccupied older office, warehouse and factory buildings into new uses. Most often, this new group of residents is the first in many years or ever and is not displacing anyone.

    Even in places like Bushwick, Brooklyn that are seeing a big influx of new and wealthier residents, a high percent are moving into buildings that never housed people before and in many cases had not housed factories in many years. Bushwick gentrification is mostly displacing spaces used as warehouses.

  23. John Morris says:

    Most Soho spaces were “gentrified”, and rented to artist tenants only because demand from garment and other factory tenants had already dried up.

    Gentrification is not a useful term to use when we are talking about the improvement of underutilized or empty buildings.

  24. John Morris says:

    NYC is perhaps not a great example, since there is so much real gentrification going on there. Yes, there is some significant displacement of factories going on in Bushwick.

  25. Andy says:

    RE: #22 — exactly. No gentrification if nobody is being (or there to be) displaced.

  26. Cobo Rodregas says:

    I don’t understand why gentrification is always put in such a bad light? Displacement of one group of people with another is how America works. It can be unpleasant, it can be nasty, but it happens.

    Here is an example of ghettoification. My current neighborhood is getting displaced by loud, obnoxious people who blast their car stereos and scream curse words at each other and my children, and break into peoples houses at night and drink 40s in what used to be parks that children could play. This new group has destroyed the value and the very fabric of the community. We are leaving, and make no mistake middle class people (of all races, but blacks get hassled less) are being forced out of this neighborhood.

    So why do people get so bent out of shape if a neighborhood is getting improved(gentrified)?

    The biggest problem with ghettos is that they develop a toxic destructive culture which brings with it cyclical poverty, bad attitudes, violence, and a general feeling of hopelessness. Once someone embraces this lifestyle society at large has little to no use for them and this reinforces the cycle. If a child grows up in this culture their chances in life are greatly reduced. People have tried to find ways to break the cycle in a way that doesn’t involve displacement, but most attempts have been unsuccessful.

    The only way to fix a ghetto is to displace the people through gentrification, or let it get so bad that people with any ambition just leave (like Detroit). Many of the people displaced from the ghetto will make new lives in areas with more constructive cultures and they will adapt to and learn from their surroundings and become more productive, the others will end up in other ghettos or create new ones. I think the value of improving the lives of the former outweigh the inconvenience to the latter.

    Gentrification is a positive part of the development cycle and from what I can tell the only way to fight urban sprawl, and fight the decay of our nation.

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