After 3 Decades of Coverage, John Gallagher of the Freep Looks at Detroit's Comeback
November 17th, 2017, 4:50 PM
"Detroit" and "comeback" are two words that have frequently been used in the same breath these days.
Reporter John Gallagher has spent 30 years covering Detroit’s revitalization efforts for the Free Press and gives his read on the city's comeback. A sampling of his observations:
The Detroit Future City report of 2013 made urban farming a key part of its innovative “greening” strategies for the city’s future. And many once-fringe greening strategies – from bee-keeping and raising chickens to reforestation projects such as Hantz Woodlands to the creation of parks, greenways, bike lanes and the development of productive landscapes where we grow fruits and vegetables – all these now occupy center stage in Detroit’s redevelopment strategy.
Municipal Service Spinoffs
Broke and dysfunctional, Detroit began to spin off municipal services around the year 2000 into public authorities, conservancies and non-profit corporations.
Examples include Eastern Market and the Detroit Historical Museum, spun off in 2006, and Cobo Center, handed off to a regional authority in 2009. Workforce development, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and other city-owned or operated entities all wound up managed by their own non-profit boards and professional managers.
The results proved the wisdom of the tactic.
By the early 2000s, we began to see hints of a new economic model emerging. Business incubators opened to nurture start-ups: TechTown in Detroit, Ann Arbor SPARK, Automation Alley in Oakland County, and others. The New Economy Initiative, launched in 2007, used philanthropic dollars to promote entrepreneurialism.
Businessman Dan Gilbert’s move of his Quicken Loans downtown in 2010 shifted the focus even more from automotive to technology firms. That shift has accelerated. Venture capital is paying more attention to local startups; one Ann Arbor startup, Duo Security, which provides computer security services, recently received a valuation of more than $1 billion, the region’s first "unicorn" or high-valuation start-up in many years.
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