It is a brand new year for Metro Detroiters, and we can now put 2011 behind us. The past year had some ups and downs for the city of Detroit. Unfortunately, a corrupt city saw a big financial debt with a possible emergency manager, more people moved out of the city, and we are still in a bridge dispute. But we did see some good things happen. The Tigers and Lions surprised many of us, Dan Gilbert began purchasing buildings all over Downtown, and more businesses opened up. We can only hope 2012 will bring us more good news and less bad.
As we head into 2012, only a couple of weeks in, we have already received both good and bad news for the city. Manuel "Matty" Moroun went to jail, then he was freed a day later, the 2012 North American International Auto Show brought the largest crowd on the first day in five years, and the renovations will begin on the David Whitney Building this year.
Detroit coming into the New Year needs some resolutions. First off, is to get the budget back on track. Whether that is through an emergency manager or city council and mayor, it needs to be handled and handled well. That is where they need to start. Following that, the Detroit Works Project needs to get going. The organization was formed by Mayor Dave Bing "in order create a shared, achievable vision for our future that would serve as a guide for improving the physical, social and economic landscape of our city," as described by their Facebook page.
If the Detroit Works Project can mesh with the citizens of the city, work together, and create smaller, safer and better neighborhoods. If this works, the downsizing of our city can begin. In fact, Detroit is larger than San Francisco, Manhattan and Boston put together. They will set up shop in Eastern Market on 2929 Russell Street. Their hours are Monday-Friday from 8:30am-5:30pm.
One of the bigger problems Detroit needs to fix is the school system. "Education is the key to success," as once said by former astronaut Ken Reightler Jr. According to the Detroit Public School website, last February the graduation rate was 62%. It's one thing to have your graduation rate grow, but it's another to be just above half. If Detroit wants smarter students, more going on to secondary education and to helping the city become great again, schools need to downsize, just like the city. Once that happens, there will be less money going to schools with less than adequate enrollment, and more students grouped together. They can easily cut down on the amount of schools, but first it starts with downsizing the city.
Something that may be a smart resolution for the city has got to be safety improvements. The police department is having their problems. 100 officers will supposedly be laid off because of the city budget. The only way people will feel safe in this city is with improved police presence. The budget has a lot to do with that, so once the budget gets back on track, the police and fire can get back to doing what they do best, serving the people of Detroit.
Those are some serious resolutions Detroit not only should make but needs to make. These next few are ones that I think would be really cool, but isn't as important as the ones above. Detroit is working its way back to having a retail market in Downtown. The project of the Somerset CityLoft gave great insight on what could be. With Dan Gilbert purchasing the old J.L. Hudson's Building site, rumors are swirling that he is going to have a 15-20 story building, with retail, parking and residential space. There are no plans in place, and rumor is just a rumor, but you can't discount it just yet. If Gilbert can get that going and bring in other retailers in the buildings he purchased, Detroit won't just be a place to see a sporting event, eat, maybe see a show and head back home. It can once again be a place to experience a full day in.
Other great cities have shopping and all of the shopping centers around Metro Detroit, are in the suburbs. Yes there are small stores around the city, but having popup stores that have shown to be successful prove to retailers that shopping is sustainable in Detroit and can exist once again.
One final resolution that Detroit needs to look into is the space where the Ford Auditorium once stood. Yes it was just torn down and the city owns it, but they can't leave that space empty for long. It is prime real estate on the riverfront and there are a variety of things you can put there. We already have an aquarium on Belle Isle, and even though it's closed, it plans on reopening so that's out. What Detroit needs in that space is restaurants, with outdoor seating, or a high rise building with restaurants that have a riverfront view. Maybe make it 15 stories? It would be a perfect building, right on the river, prime real estate for restaurants and a hotel, and even residences. Who wouldn't want to have dinner, next to Hart Plaza, looking over the beautiful Detroit River? Right now, that only exists at the Renaissance Center.
Detroit has some big and small problems. They can all be resolved with teamwork. Shrink the city, fix the budget and schools, bring in retail and do something about the eyesore that was the Ford Auditorium. If all of this can get done this year, 2012 will be a big success. There are many more resolutions Detroit needs to make as well, but these are some of the ones that stick out. Let's get out there, lend a hand, and most importantly, believe.