June 20, 2013 by Caroline Dobbins
I’ve been writing a lot about how individuals and groups can create positive change in their neighborhoods and their city, whether it be Detroit to Los Angeles or anywhere in between, but sometimes positive change cannot bridge a gap that may exist.
I will not admit to being an expert on the underlying issue that stem from years and years of Detroit history but I am not blind. Let me take you quickly on a trip down Woodward Avenue from where I work, Royal Oak, to where I live, Downtown Detroit. As I leave work Woodward is a street lined with a variety of shops. From Groceries stores and consignment shops with the occasional empty storefront. Nothing out of the ordinary and down each side street are well-kept houses with beautiful lawns and cars parked outside. As I continue to drive south I pass through Ferndale, a quirky little town with lots of charm.
Over a bridge and welcome to 8 mile. It sometimes surprises me how quickly things can change. There are more unoccupied storefronts occupied ones. A glance down the side street might be impossible when driving at night as the street lights might not be on. If the lights are on, you’d find a combination of abandoned houses and ones that reflect the struggle but perseverance of individuals that refuse to give up. It is hard for me to drive the stretch of Woodward from 8 mile to Grand Blvd. without wondering what things must have looked like in their heyday or what they might look like twenty years from now.
Wayne State, The Public Library, The DIA and the Detroit Historical Museum greet me and remind me of the change that can happen and will happen but I know that a turn left or right can offer again a mix of Detroit perseverance and Detroit struggle. Moving through Midtown progress is clear and potential is obvious. Over I-75 I’m welcomed to downtown by the Fox, the Filmore, the giant tigers and Grand Circus park. It often appears to be a growing downtown. One that’s not yet full of beautiful stores or amazing businesses but one that is moving in that direction. Construction barrels guard buildings that are being remodeled rather than torn down and there is even a movie set being built next door to me. Things are happening, good things.
It’s difficult for me to write about what I see on my drive but it’s important to paint the picture of Detroit. One that often feels like two Detroits. The renewed Detroit that continues to change and the struggling Detroit, one that feels is slipping through the cracks. I know that ALL of Detroit has potential but the question is how do we meet in the middle? How do we balance a thriving central business district with deteriorating neighborhoods? I know that the whole of Detroit can come together but there has to be a middle ground.
This is really a blog full of questions. How do we, as a whole city, meet in the middle and create the best possible life for all 700,000 citizens of Detroit? I do not have the answers but I do believe that if we listen to the citizens, all the citizen, we will rise to a city that we truly have the potential to be.