Over the past few decades, Grand Rapids has seen an exciting boom of sorts. While the magnitude of a Detroit turnaround will require much more, I believe the Motor City can learn a thing or two from our neighbor city in West Michigan as it continues to capitalize on recent successes.
As Detroiters, we are daily seeing progress being made but I know I have wondered at times, what is the vision behind it all? Thankfully for today's Detroit, those on the front lines are visionaries that have bought into a common vision.
Detroiters have come accustom to the talk of deficits, low cash flow and payless paydays during the past several years. The reality is that the City of Detroit still faces a fiscal crisis that will continue if implementation of reforms is not moved forward.
Detroit is unique in many ways, of course, but in the context of solving globally applicable problems, this city's current state combined with an ever-growing influx of creative thinkers are creating a one-of-a-kind platform for innovation.
While the rebounding downtown and Midtown districts fit the usual pattern of urban progress-established institutions and developers guiding most of the changes -- other parts of town are following a different playbook for revitalization.
Most of those driving the discussions about economic progress, urban gardening, land use issues, and governmental policy in Detroit are relative newcomers who do not necessarily understand or appreciate the challenges that the "old Detroit" has faced.
As a native Detroiter, being back in the city for the summer reminds me that the city is entering a peculiar era as a new group of Detroiters move in while many lifelong city dwellers seek lives elsewhere, oftentimes due to uncontrollable situations.
A lot has been said about Chrysler's Super Bowl ad, featuring Clint Eastwood and Detroit. While the pundits talk about whether or not it was a campaign commercial, let me tell you what Detroiters really think about it.
As a filmmaker, I was rooting for Detropia to weave a story of hope and promise and not dredge up the same old ghosts of ruin and despair. Alas, it seems like the blight temptress has claimed her latest victims.
Instead of working for a progress we can only access in the cinema of our imaginations, "a fantasy of more," we should embrace our station as a struggling city and exert ourselves towards making it better.
Detroit is a city that is all about division. Today's obvious divides -- rich and poor, black and white, downtown and neighborhoods -- are nothing new. We've always loved to find (or invent) ways to separate ourselves.
I have been to Paris and Pakistan, Istanbul and Bosnia. But I have never seen anything quite like this: Detroit is a state-of-the-art, urban frontier. My tattered hometown has, somehow, become "revisionist cool."
Imagine a day where 1.3 million people from around the world visit Detroit en masse to recreate and experience the high-water mark of a full and thriving Motor City. Maybe a few of them will even fall in love and stick around.