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Finding a Balance in the Big City

A few quick hits before what promises to be a great fall weekend in these parts:

* The Washington Post takes a long look at Detroit through the eyes of its residents: elderly, musicians, artists,  families. Great photos accompany this piece, both beautiful and tragic. And that is why I like it; it seems like one of the most balanced out there.

In this city, it is easy to see the ruins. But, if you look closer ... you will also find residents who are taking action where others wallow, who are beautifying what others destroyed. If the economic downturn has deepened the dark aspects of life here, we discovered, it has also brightened the good.

* Reason TV via YouTube takes on the M-1 project. All in all, the video gives another (snarky) side to the story. Well, interesting how this reporting stuff seems to be getting Detroit's drift all of a sudden. Anyway, watch and let me know what you think.

In a town lacking essential services, what do local leaders and federal politicians have in mind for helping the city? What's needed to hoist Detroit back to its 1950 heyday, when it was America's fourth largest city, with more than double its current population? Why, light rail, of course!

* Check out Channel 7's piece on the big "Transforming Detroit" tour that took place this week. This was a special three-day event for in-town and out-of-town reporters to learn more about the city, good, bad and otherwise. We'll be hearing more about this event next week via a friend of mine who attended. He's in the video -- see if you can guess who it is!

On a related note, check out this essay over at MLive by the Unmasked Man from Dyspathy, Jeff T. Wattrick. (Nice to see your face, fella, and congrats on the job! Who is going to write your drinking game?) The title alone is worth reading...but it actually is an astute, well-reasoned look at why Detroit's problems will remain problems for the near term.

Detroit should stop checking the Q rating ever other day and stick to brass tacks. It doesn't matter right now if a New York reporter doesn't care about Slow's. Nor does it even matter if the Archie Bunker in Shelby Township needs to explain that Detroit is a worthless pit every time the subject comes up. Because he will, no matter what you do or say. And the best way journalists can help that process is to stop wringing-hands about positivity and just report the truth. Good, bad, or indifferent.

* Wildly interesting and cool piece over at The New York Times via Placement about an area in Lafayette Park that had the trifecta of design greatness on board: Ludwig Hilbersheimer as urban planner, Alfred Caldwell as landscape designer and Mies van der Rohe as architect.

During our research, we were struck by the casual attitude that many residents have toward the architecture. Then again, Detroit has an abundance of beautiful housing options: one can live in a huge Victorian mansion, a beautiful arts and crafts house or a cavernous loft-conversion space in a former factory. Living in a townhouse built by a renowned architect isn't as noteworthy as one might think. At the same time, such nonchalance is a mark of success: the homes are great because they work, not because they come affixed with a famous name.

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