Speaking at a forum about Detroit’s future in May, an economic-development official told the audience, “When I look at this city’s tax base, I say bring on more gentrification.” George Jackson, CEO and president of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. continued, “I’m sorry, but, I mean, bring it on. We can’t just be a poor city and prosper.” That’s an undeniable economic fact, but given the city’s declining population and tax base, not to mention its high crime rate, what practical steps can the city take to revive itself?
After Detroit filed for bankruptcy in July, some suggested that the city should sell off assets like the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection or Belle Isle, an island park on the Detroit River the city has owned since 1879, to help meet its $18 billion debt. (Although the proposal to buy Belle Isle didn’t go through, on Nov. 12 a state panel approved a 30-year lease to make the island a state park, a move that is expected to save Detroit $4 million to $6 million a year in operating costs.) Just about every method of boosting local business and reviving blighted neighborhoods has been examined, except one: Scant attention has been paid to the LGBTQ community’s role in Detroit’s economic comeback.