Editor’s Note: Prior to, during and after the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Detroit Policy Conference, Detroit Unspun/TheHUB, Comcast and WWJ Newsradio 950 will bring you stories that showcase the transformation of our city’s neighborhoods.
By Karen Dumas
Everybody is talking ‘neighborhoods’…and that’s a good thing. At the recent Detroit Policy Conference, there wasn’t a presentation, conversation or exchange that didn’t include the topic of Detroit’s neighborhoods. From what is taking place, to what remains to be done, the long challenge of addressing the myriad needs of the oft overlooked residential areas of Detroit is occupying a large part of the collective discussion.
Leaders and guests alike recognized and publicly acknowledged what others continually discuss and critique in private: the city will not fully recover until its neighborhoods are included in the equation.
The simple fact of inclusion in the discussion is a start; with a session dedicated to building safe neighborhoods, the business community clearly recognizes that no matter what they do to stabilize and grow downtown and in certain other areas, the problems that lie within the neighborhoods will not be confined there and will continue to hamper and sometimes overshadow other more positive efforts.
It’s also good business, as neighborhoods are occupied by those who stayed when the city was at its lowest point and who continue to champion for its change. They deserve to be included and benefit from a redefined city. That can’t happen if the needs within the neighborhoods are ignored. Talking about it is a start.
TheHUB interviewed a number of prominent DPC attendees, including its organizer and Detroit Regional Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah, Bank of America Michigan President Matthew Elliott and the heads of our largest and most active non-profits including The Kresge Foundation‘s Managing Director, Community Development and Detroit Programs Laura Trudeau, Michigan Community Resources CEO Jill Ferrari, and Detroit LISC CEO Tahirir Ziegler, in addition to Dr. Glenda Price, President of the DPS Foundation, Tom Watkins of the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority; Douglass Diggs of Diggs Heritage Group, and Christianne Simms of Build Detroit.
The conversation is one of excitement and promise with a strong touch of reality about what it is going to take to truly make Detroit all that it is capable of becoming.
There is an undeniable excitement about the possibilities. That alone is promising, as the city was hindered for years by the burden of a negative image and outlook by those inside and out. Yet, all the glitter isn’t yet gold.
Issues such as education, mental health and small business development and sustainability are integral to the overall success of the city and those who live, work and play here. Safety is another key component, as discussed in a safety-specific session at the DPC, recognized that crime is fueled by other socio-economic issues that may not be the responsibility of any one person or entity, but will surly hinder the efforts of all.
Moving from conversation to execution is the next step and challenge. As with all proposed resolutions, the application varies on how to best solve the challenges at hand. Integral to a success strategy for the neighborhoods is stabilization of the residents–geographically, economically, educationally and socially. This will be no easy feat for those who have been routinely overlooked—the undereducated, the unemployed, and those whose options may appear few. Crime and a severely broken public school system continue to hinder the neighborhoods and those who live there. Blight and the lack of density also play a role in suppressing accelerated neighborhood solutions.
But while talk is cheap, it is also necessary and can be constructive in defining what can be a resourceful and successful strategy. The next step, however is to include those in the neighborhoods in the conversation. This means connecting the dots between the business community who spur and incite investment to the neighborhood groups and leaders who truly have their finger on the pulse of Detroit residents. They are the ones who can tell you what the problems are, and give a unique and helpful insight into how to solve them.
I personally believe TheHUB’s monthly print and digital news can be that conduit. That’s why I’m lending my voice to this publication, which is recognized as ‘the voice” of Detroit’s neighborhoods. A centralized resource of insight, information, updates and opportunities to make a difference; a place where different voices and views can be found, along with ideas and recommendations to put them all to good use for the collective good of our city and its residents.
In the interim, let’s keep the momentum and conversation going at least long enough until everyone can see that Detroit neighborhoods are truly important, and that the results become evidence and validation that every square mile of Detroit is entitled to and deserving of more than talk.
It’s time for action, investment and results.
TheHUB Founder and Publisher Jackie Berg spoke with Karen Dumas on The PULSE on Superstation 910AM to detail the history behind TheHUB, its coverage of local block clubs, as well as Detroit neighborhood and mixed income housing trends. To listen, click here.