The announcement of a plan to build the first modern era skyscraper in downtown Detroit to be located on the gravesite of the Hudson’s site was initially met with widespread excitement. Up to this point, the renovation of Detroit has largely been a matter of resurrecting abandoned buildings. Now we have tangible evidence that the economic resurgence is real and substantial enough to cause new growth.
Since the announcement of the skyscraper project, the one discordant note has been a coalition of Detroit activists who demand that the building devote substantial space for low income housing and small business entrepreneurs. Of course, these are absurd demands for a skyscraper in the heart of the new business center of Detroit. Skyscrapers aren’t built to accommodate flea markets. However, while the demands of the coalition are ridiculous for the new project, they are valid and necessary demands that the economic boom have some benefit for all Detroiters. There is a need for economic support for small business in Detroit, and a profound need for affordable housing and good schools. These are the things that are necessary if Detroit is to fully become a viable urban city. For example, Detroit is wonderful for young single people and married couples at the moment, but they grow up and have families at some point and anyone with children would never raise them in this Detroit.
Mayor Duggan has, though hook and crook, done a good job encouraging business growth in the downtown areas from Jefferson to Woodward to Michigan Ave. However, it is as though his plan to care for the citizens of Detroit is to wait for some sort of dribble-down effect from businesses. As the new project demonstrates, businesses take care of businesses. No one is going to devote space in multi-million dollar renovation projects to house the homeless… and no one should expect them to. Rather, it should be the expectation that the mayor will devote as much energy to making Detroit livable for families.