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One Vision of Detroit 2020

An absolute must read this weekend in The Detroit Free Press – bringing together many of the people, projects and projections that would make Detroit a different place in 2020.

The articles, which included two editorials, made some wonderful points. There are many bright spots around the city: new mayor, new alliances among investors and community groups, committed business people, great pockets of development spreading together.

But major changes in just 10 years? I've got to agree with the astute Stephen Henderson: Very little will truly happen to change Detroit at its core without middle-class families committing to living there.

People have to want to raise their kids in the city. You need people with nice incomes and enough dough to invest time in manicuring their lawns and painting their picket fences. There has to be enough people on the block to care about their elderly neighbors. And they have to love the schools their kids will attend. I'm not saying there aren't places like this now. But Detroit needs it to happen in much larger number than are there now.

Much, much, much larger.

Here is a snippet of what the Freep wants to see around Detroit in 2020:

You see thousands of kids attending schools that work for them. You see people using light rail and boarding buses in a transit system that serves them. You see a gleaming, growing medical complex; banners being hoisted to the rafters of a new sports arena; and people tending little farms that nourish their neighborhoods in more ways than one. You see convention-goers strolling a crowded RiverWalk and bicyclists coasting the downhills of a new trail network.

Sounds pretty nice, doesn't it? But Henderson paints a much more realistic picture of what needs to happen to get Detroit on track. Please, if you have time, read the whole article. Here's a highlight:

But none of it will matter much unless Detroit can also transform its population. For the city to thrive -- economically, socially, culturally -- it has got to re-establish solidly middle-class neighborhoods, populated with families who pay taxes, work and play in Detroit, and send their children to the public schools. Families are the lifeblood of any community, providing stability and economy. Families buy homes and support businesses. They put down roots that can spread for generations.

He notes that there are programs and groups out there that focus on building neighborhoods. This sounds like something that Detroit needs to develop. Anyone know of a project like this already out there?

P.S. Dear Freep et al.: Can we not throw Time magazine under the bus when writing up these articles? I've got to say – that magazine article about “the remains of Detroit” may not have been perfect, but it was fairly honest. And it got this region fired up and thinking. And it got a lot of other people outside of Detroit thinking. So it's not all that bad; quit blaming Time and quit using the magazine as your news peg, okay?

For links to all of the Freep stories from this thoughtful package…

MONEY magazine is looking for Detroit families (including people who have recently moved away) who are willing to discuss their finances and are looking for financial advice. If interested, email your contact information to gmannes@moneymail.com.

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