I had a wonderful extended Labor Day weekend. Our multi-state tour of the South was a lot of fun but I am happy to be home! It’s fascinating to see where other people live and I have to admit I was confronted with some harsh realities. While touring other large cities it was impossible to ignore the fact that there is a lot of work left to do in the metro Detroit region.
Our trip started in Georgia and I now understand why people speak highly of Atlanta. It’s a beautiful city. The first thing I noticed upon our arrival was how large the central business district is. Downtown Detroit is about a square mile and Atlanta is obviously several. This raised other flags in my mind because people walk to get from place to place. When I travel I walk everywhere within an hour. I don’t think much of this when I’m in New York or Chicago but in Atlanta I realized that virtually no one walks beyond downtown to Midtown or Corktown in Detroit. The automobile industry has encouraged sprawl (and laziness) in this region and we really need to start wearing our walking shoes.
The highlight of Atlanta is the MARTA. It is accessible, easy to use and clean. We parked at a park and ride to avoid downtown chaos and it was a great strategy. The entire trip I thought about a transit proposal that would have light-rail on the major streets in Detroit: Woodward Ave. (for the Detroit Zoo), Jefferson Ave. (for Belle Isle), Michigan Ave. (for The Henry Ford) and Grand River and Gratiot Avenues for the neighborhoods. I don’t believe any action has been taken on this proposal but I hope it will be brought up again.
- Music: Detroit’s legacy as the home of Motown should be celebrated more prominently in the city. Dan Gilbert’s place-making proposal suggests making Monroe Street music oriented and I’d love to see it happen. Walking around Nashville and hearing a variety of country performers at different bars was fun and something Detroit could replicate.
- The welcome center: D:Hive is a great start but the Nashville welcome center is incredible. The permanent building offers lots of swag and public bathrooms.
- Museums: I’m inclined to believe country music stars built and help sustain these museums but no matter the funding, the experience at the Country Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry are astounding. I’m not even a country music fan but could appreciate the exhibits and displays. I think they are great models for others in the industry.
Travelling was a valuable educational experience. It gave me a better understanding of what people compare Detroit to. I enjoyed seeing the things other places do well and hope that I can find a way to bring these ideas to the right people to make Detroit an even better place to live and visit. Since I said a lot about what Detroit lacks I want to mention something I feel Detroit has to offer that other major cities don’t. People in Detroit have the opportunity to create something meaningful and to make a noticeable difference. I imagine that it’s harder to breakout in areas that have all the amenities people expect. In Detroit, everything gets noticed because no matter what the project is it’s changing the city in profound ways.