Are Reports of Detroit’s Rebirth Greatly Exaggerated?

Is life getting any better for Detroiters outside of the seven square miles that make up the city’s core?

Jake Neher/WDET

Mayor Mike Duggan gives his State of the City speech on Tuesday evening. He’ll undoubtedly talk about positive things happening in the city since his first term as mayor began. Downtown and Midtown are booming, the M-1 Rail is scheduled to begin service in the spring, and the streetlights are back on throughout the city.

But has the narrative of a city on the rebound been exaggerated? Is life really getting better for Detroiters outside of the seven square miles that make up the city’s core? What about the other 138 square miles?

In a recent article in CityLab — titled “Is Detroit Really Making a Comeback?” — Michigan State University political science professor Laura A. Reese and Wayne State University professor emeritus of urban studies and planning Gary Sands write:

“Two major conclusions emerged from our data. First, by a number of measures Detroit continues to decline, and even when positive change has occurred, growth has been much less robust than many narratives would suggest. Second, within the city recovery has been highly uneven, resulting in increasing inequality.”

Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson speaks with Prof. Sands, as well as Detroit Regional Chamber President & CEO Sandy Baruah, about the reality of Detroit’s supposed comeback.

Sands says one major problem that remains in Detroit is getting people back to work.

“It’s not bringing suburban jobs to Downtown Detroit,” he says. “Detroit needs to employ 100,000 more Detroiters… Get the people who live in the city working again.”

Baruah says there’s no question that great swaths of the city have not yet participated in Detroit’s economic renaissance. But he says he disagrees with Sands about the tone and overall outlook of his report.

“You look at what Mayor Duggan has been able to do with streetlights, with garbage collection, with public safety… all of these basic fundamentals of city life have been invested in,” he says. “And that’s in all neighborhoods, not just Downtown.”

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.

What questions about the city of Detroit do you want answered in Mayor Duggan’s State of the City Address? Click here to send us your questions and listen to the speech live on 101.9 WDET at 7 p.m.


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