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wolverine

Younger years in the city

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LMich mentioned in the Donovan thread about growing up in Detroit and what he thought of the enviroment at a younger age. I thought this was interesting because I was able to relate to exactly his thoughts as a child as well. I didn't grow up in Detroit, but the enviroment in Saginaw was somewhat similar where there was a lot of blight, crime, and unemployment. This didn't mean I was living in hell, rather on the West Side where things were okay, but slipping quickly into decline. So don't think my childhood was a harsh enviroment! :) We eventually moved about 15 miles out of the city before the real crime began to happen in that part of town such as drive-by's, drug dealing, etc. Keep in mind, Saginaw was actually improving before the city budget went into the red.

This post will eventually relate to Detroit, but let me first explain some background.

In Saginaw blight just seemed like a normal thing. My parents always told me when I was younger that the buildings would either be torn down or fixed up, but might be replaced with something better. (My parents didn't want me to think I necessarily living in a bad place). I didn't quite have to deal with gunshots since that was mostly on the other side of the river, but I was aware of its potential of happening near where I lived, and did experience a declining neigborhood, but it just accepted. Many of the stores at that time in West Saginaw/Hamilton area, etc were just barely holding on. But I wouldn't know since I really didn't understand the economics of the city, and it was never mentioned by my father how the GM plants were threatening to leave Saginaw and move overseas (which fortunately they haven't yet). There was also the culture of things around me that made living in a declining neighborhood so acceptable. To be honest, my friends and I took interest (but never participated) in the ways of "the hood." We found the gansta culture of hustlers and criminals interesting just as kids who would play cops and robbers (it's pretty much the same thing). We loved (and I still love) rap and hip hop music which didn't necessarily promote gangs, drugs, and murder; but provided an anthropology lesson of the city where things were harsh, but liveable.

So basically, I was aware of the surroundings, I knew what was right and wrong, and stayed out of trouble. I also knew how to avoid trouble, so there was no fear in my life. That was the key of living in the city. It was accepting the enviroment I was in, but being smart enough not to get involved in its malfunctions.

So it came as somewhat of shock when we moved out and I met friends who were downright afraid of Saginaw. They had childhoods where blight was entirely out of site, and were never aware of what happened in the city. So when they were finally exposed to it, their parents likely told them the cities were full of crime and corruption and it would only put them in danger if they were around those places. This is obviously not true for all poeple who don't live in the city. Nearly everyone has appreciation for places like Chicago and New York, but as far as my friends who didn't grow up in declining urban places in Michigan, the thoughts were different. It's probably because they were never taught how to deal with the problems in the city. Perhaps this is because their parents felt they never needed the advice since they felt their children would grow up and raise a family in the safety of the suburbs. There's nothing wrong with choosing that lifestyle, but then there is this perception that the city is an awful place.

I really feel this is the roadblock when getting cities back on track. There is still a large population that does not know how to accept the problems that are going on in cities. Until then those people will continue to move to the suburbs.

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You kind of hit up on it, but to add to the last part, Michigan's urban areas largest problems are not so much the crime (many cities are comparable to many other cities across the country), but how suburbanites surrounding these cities related and react to crime. I have found it astounding that even after moving from the 1980's Detroit (a REAL hell-hole and something to be afraid of for the most part) to Lansing that there were many suburbanites here in Lansing that thought this city was such a dangerous ghetto, a city that has never posted more than 15 or so murders a year (and less than that now).

I've seen few other states so completely abandoned their urban areas NEVER to look back until very recently. We in this state are such drama kings and queens believing that we are the worst of everything. I blame this on the media for making us believe this, though. No one takes responsibility for anything in this state, and everyone is incredibly content with the "sky is falling" attitude.

If there is one word I could describe Michigan's city-suburb relations it would be dysfunctional, and that is a hell of an understatement.

I think I kind of drifted off of topic. :)

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I hope I'm not steering away from what this thread was made to talk about but I can relate to what Lmichigan says about people outside of Detroit thinking it is such a bad place. I am a high schooler in the suburb of Canton and the jokes never stop about how you will get shot if you go to Detroit. I am really into taking pictures of downtowns and my parents would absolutely flip if I went to Detroit, even though I am 17. What really surprised me was when I visited my grandparents in Clio (north of Flint) last summer and at their church they asked where I live and I said near Detroit and the guy thought I said Detroit so he smiles and says I'm sorry. I apologize if what I am saying is irrelevant but it does make me mad when people say bad things about Detroit. All they know about it is what they hear on the news, the murders and crime. They don't know the beautiful buildings and parks.

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I want to expand on that and my former post. What REALLY gets me is something I hit on above, is surbanities around Michigan cities with relatively low violent crime rates (Grand Rapids, Lansing...) seriously believing that these cities are ghetto wastelands; that just blows my mind. The perception of crime in Michigan in just about everyone of its city is so far outside of reality.

I think of places like D.C., New Orleans (pre-Katrina), and Atlanta, all with similar violent crime rates to Detroit and often time higher. Yet, the suburbanites there don't freak out over their central city's crime, or latch onto it with a morbid fascianation like people do here.

Michigan is nothing but a head-case, and one that's going to need a major shrink to cure.

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The cure imo is a revitalized downtown Detroit. If downtown can become vibrant, and it is on its way with all these recent developments, that is going to change peoples perception of the city.

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Yeah, one thing those other cities have been able to retain is their downtown and central cities, something Detroit pretty much lost entirely in the 80's. Man, just look back even a few years right before Comerica was completed, and just think at how long it had been that way until recently. Downtown was pretty horrible not even 8 years ago. And, at one time, it was actually pretty dangerous, something it's completely reversed in the past years.

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The problem is people dont realize how safe and enjoyable it is right now. They come down for an event then leave right afterwards. New developments and people taking care of older properties can change that in a hurry. People tend to see the rotting structures and blight moreso than places like Campus Martius and all the new streetscapes. What sticks in their minds is the unpleasant and thats what they share with everyone else.

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I hope I'm not steering away from what this thread was made to talk about but I can relate to what Lmichigan says about people outside of Detroit thinking it is such a bad place. I am a high schooler in the suburb of Canton and the jokes never stop about how you will get shot if you go to Detroit.

I can relate to this nonsense. My suburb is filled with all sorts of ignorant people such as this, and for most of them (under thirty) their views are based solely on what they are told. Everyone makes the whole "you'll get shot in Detroit" argument because: a) it's big and foreign; b) their parents told them horror stories; and 3) Detroit is full of scary, violent minorities all out to get you, oh my!

Though I've been attracted to cities, Detroit in particular, since I can remember, I was surrounded by this and absorbed at least some of it before I formed my OWN opinion. Once you feel the city out, walk around and take in the sights and sounds, there's something special. Unfortunately, if anyone I know goes the city, it's no more than a freeway/parking garage/Joe/parking garage/freeway affair and nothing more. You don't need to worship Art Deco architecture or other die-hard things like we do, but it seems a lot of people just aren't interested. Too bad for them; there are lots of enriching things to be had not far from their doorsteps.

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Zissou, while downtown is pretty important for perception, things need to go MUCH deeper than this is how the city is precieved. I resent the idea that the downtown needs to be developed soley to be a playground and living space for suburbanites. Until there is a tangible, social connection of city residents and suburbanites painting up downtown is like putting make-up on a pig. What's the use in bringing up downtown if it's only for suburbanites to drive in and drive out, or when they do move downtown pretty much live on an island within the city? That's not true healing.

I just wanted to put that into perspective.

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The perception problem that Detroit has is a real road block, indeed.

When my family had gotten a visa to immigrate to US from S. Korea, people asked where in US I'd be living. I was 12 at the time and really had no idea about what Detroit was like other than then fact that I was taught in school that it was the automotive capitol of the world. But, I soon learned that Detroit was not a "nice place" from people and frankly was scared that I was going to get shot as soon as I got off the plane.

When finally got here, I was driven from the Metro Airport (which had by far the largest parking lot that I had ever seen) through the city to Warren where we lived with my aunt before getting our own place. Even though most of the way through Detroit was on freeways, I could see many of the ruins, barbwired fences and all the trash that littered the streets. When we finally got to 8 mile road, there was something wierd. I did not understand it that day, but soon I was taught that "the other side" was bad while "this side" was good. We were living on Toepher (i.e. 8.5 mile road) and I was supposed somehow feel better than everyone who lived within a walking distance. People talked about 8 mile road as if it were the DMZ between the North and South Korea. I was impressed from the day one - and not in a good way.

It was only after many years of exploring the city on my own that I began to see the good within the city and eventually grew a soft spot for it.

If I hadn't grown up in and around Seoul, I probably would not have searched out for urbanity of a city. All the short comings that Detroit had in comparison to Seoul did not make it easy either. Even now, it's hard to explain to those who "do not know." It's even harder when you add on the historic tension in the region.

Detroit has its own character and authenticity about it, though.

That's not something people "get" within a short visit or even during the daily commute via freeways that by passes everything and only offers casual glances at the city at the best.

Still, I think "What a difference since the day I first landed here!"

So while it's been slow going, I remain optimistic.

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The difference at the 8 Mile divide as I have seen it is something that cuts deep for me even to this day. I'm biased (being Black, of course), but here is what I've always felt about the line...

Many that lived north of the line seemed to have an attitude of those south of the line that "there aren't my fellow brothers and sisters that these aren't my people so why should I be concerned about the state of my former city and birthplace? While those south of 8 Mile may not have been to happy with where they lived, but never really harbored any real feelings either way about those north of 8 Mile. While race relations are still a sizeable nation problem, everything both good and bad about them is magnified at 8 Mile Road.

What has always confused me, though, is how welcoming Southfield was to finally break the line at 8 Mile, and how just down the road in Warren it still remains one of the "whitest" major cities in the country. Look at any density map of the different races and ethnicities in the Metro Area and you can clearly see a HUGE "break" in the 8 Mile Road sign at Southfield. I just never understood the history about why black were allowed into Southfield, but few other places.

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Well this is the bad thing about it. If Detroit ever does revive and the middle class returns to the place, expect the current residents to be pushed out. The problem really isn't the crime and perception that cities are dangerous places because there are ways to fix that if there is enough interest to do so. The real problem is the ever increasing social stratification that we have in this country between members of the middle and upper economic classes and the lower economic class. Shiney new high rise condos, gentrified historic neighborhoods, and low rise new urbanism projects, which are finding their way into many formerly blighted cities, are not the domains of the poor. I fully expect that Detroit will be "discovered" and when it happens expect it to follow the likes of Miami, Chicago, Center City Philly, DC etc. All of which once resembled present day Detroit.

While I only know Detroit through the wonderful photos and dialogs posted here on UrbanPlanet I don't think it is immune from this effect.

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LMich i wasnt trying to imply that downtown should become a playground for suburbanites. Revitalization of downtown would ease peoples feelings of the city that are negative which means more money would be spent in Detroit, which ultimately means more money for the residents. Creating a larger tax base downtown means more money for the residents of Detroit. My thinking just isnt about whats good for the suburbanites, its whats good for everyone. Develope imo needs to start in downtown and midtown and spread from there. Corktown is coming alive again and in some part due to that increased interest in downtown Detroit. Problems are going to remain in many neighborhoods in the city, but instead of spreading thin I think most efforts should be focused on the areas of most potential and move on from there.

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I can relate to this nonsense. My suburb is filled with all sorts of ignorant people such as this, and for most of them (under thirty) their views are based solely on what they are told. Everyone makes the whole "you'll get shot in Detroit" argument because: a) it's big and foreign; b) their parents told them horror stories; and 3) Detroit is full of scary, violent minorities all out to get you, oh my!

Though I've been attracted to cities, Detroit in particular, since I can remember, I was surrounded by this and absorbed at least some of it before I formed my OWN opinion. Once you feel the city out, walk around and take in the sights and sounds, there's something special. Unfortunately, if anyone I know goes the city, it's no more than a freeway/parking garage/Joe/parking garage/freeway affair and nothing more. You don't need to worship Art Deco architecture or other die-hard things like we do, but it seems a lot of people just aren't interested. Too bad for them; there are lots of enriching things to be had not far from their doorsteps.

Exactly, the people that are saying these things about Detroit are people that are hearing them from others and they haven't actually been there themselves. No one should make comments like that about a city when they haven't been there.

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I grew up with the idea surrounding me, "that I would get shot in Detroit." But I still did go downtown then. I remember going down to Trappers Alley and going to the Masonic Temple for my sisters dance competitions. Going to Hockeytown right when it opened. About 6 or 7 years ago I ended up walking through Cass Park walking to the Masonic Temple. Almost right away I asked my father, "is the city getting better because it seems better than before?" He just said "Yes, but the crime is still bad down here." The conversation ended right there. That day was pretty much the day that got me thinking how much better it really is. The real tipping point was when Detroit was awarded the Superbowl. I started searching and learning so much about Detroit and I kept waiting for projects to get completed. That was back when the casinos were supposed to be on the River. I watched the casinos fall through and come back along with the massive BC Project. This is why I joined this forum along with Detroityes. I wanted to learn more and be able to put up a good argument against these suburbanites. I finally got all of my friends to respect me and my ideas. I believe that their preception has changed a bit. But they still chuckle at me a bit because I am so happy with Detroit. They won't talk bad about Detroit around me, which I think is a good thing. Detroit needs to start putting their projects more out to the press. I think the news has helped a little, but there is always that person being shot on the East Side and the West Side. People don't understand that it is rarely downtown. It is usually the Far East or the Far West Sides. I just can't wait to see what 2009 brings us. By then hopefully all of the planned projects right now will be finished. The Crime Rate will be lower. This is just optimism, but I think that Detroit will be 3x better in 2009.

I want to thank everyone on this forum for helping me learn so much more about Detroit and change my preception about the whole city. :thumbsup:

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If the impressions that the suburbanites have of downtown Detroit could change overnight, I think the whole city would explode in economic development. That's how much potential the region has that's being held back by misconceptions that folks in the burbs refuse to let go of. But there's hope in the next generation, the generation who grew up only with second- and third-hand knowledge of reality in the city, who then go to discover that it's all lies. I think anyone who goes downtown this weekend would come to that realization. I think that changing the opinions of those north of 8 Mile is one of the most cost-effective investments the city can make.

The problem is the people who haven't set foot in the city in over 10 years if ever at all but who are sure without at doubt that there's nothing good in the city and that you will die if you step foot in it. These people will go out of their way to degrade Detroit and thereby crap in their own back yard. Do they not realize that by doing this they are hurting the region and thus hurting themselves? The solution may initially lie in reaching the younger ones whose opinions aren't so set in stone and who are more adventurous and yearn the urban excitement that downtown can now offer - the outdoor ball park, the bright red neon lights of the bars and restaurants in Greektown and Bricktown, the wide sidewalks with a few people walking by restaurants and new clubs and stores, and even the grade-separated mass transit system. Get kids to hang out at Campus Martius when they're young, get young adults to bar/club hop downtown when they're old enough to drink, get them to move into downtown lofts when they're old enough to buy their first home. As for older adults, the ones who aren't already coming downtown for games or opera or the Fox, it might be tougher to convince them to come for the restaurants until we have more solid restaurant rows for them to stroll down (like the older folks you see walking downtown Ann Arbor streets on early weekend evenings) but there's plenty of potential storefront space for this to happen (I'm especially thinking about Washington Blvd).

I also have no doubt in my mind that what's good for downtown is good for the city, even if it takes a few years to really feel the effects. It's important to concentrate on the corest of the core, get the fire burning hot, but to do this without causing the existing middle class elsewhere to lose hope in the administration.

So how do we go about convincing people who are walking around downtown Ferndale, Royal Oak, and Birmingham to try walking around downtown Detroit if they haven't lately? The new People Mover guide, which I haven't seen, may be a good brochure for downtown restaurants which could be distributed more widely. One of the problems is that people who may be interested just don't know where to go and I can understand how they can get lost downtown and totally miss the bright spots -- although a good general rule today would be to stay east of Woodward.

I'd love to hear some brainstorming on ways to bring in suburban tourists. And to get the truth out, that downtown is safe, that the city is comparable to cities like Atlanta in terms of overall safety.

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Get kids to hang out at Campus Martius when they're young.

Over Christmas break, I was actually going to go with a bunch of my friends down t skate, but we couldn't get enough people. The next chance we get we will go though.

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As for older adults, the ones who aren't already coming downtown for games or opera or the Fox, it might be tougher to convince them to come for the restaurants until we have more solid restaurant rows for them to stroll down

This is why landing companies like Rock Financial and others is important I remember reading how lukewarm compuware workers were to the move, but once they moved they liked it. Now we have thousands people who can say Detroit isn't such a bad place and the same is true with Rock. The only way you'll get some sububanites downtown is to force them hopefully after you dragged them to the city kicking and screaming they'll realized that impression of Detroit is wrong.

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This is why landing companies like Rock Financial and others is important I remember reading how lukewarm compuware workers were to the move, but once they moved they liked it. Now we have thousands people who can say Detroit isn't such a bad place and the same is true with Rock. The only way you'll get some sububanites downtown is to force them hopefully after you dragged them to the city kicking and screaming they'll realized that impression of Detroit is wrong.

That's one way to get a few thousand people to realize the goodness of the city immediately, but that's also a damn hard (and potentially expensive) way. Then again, adding downtown white color jobs is good for the general economy of the stores and restaurants downtown who can then hopefully stay open for the entertainment crowd. But as I said it's tough right now to get more Compuwares, and it's all or nothing, whereas the city could try to win over the urbane crowd that walk around Ann Arbor, winning them over one person at a time... with gift certificates to downtown restaurants! Paired with a free ticket to a ball game or a show or something!

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While companies moving downtown may change public opinion several hundred at a time, the big question (and I hate to say this) is the Super Bowl. Not because it has the power to change national opinion, but rather because it is an opportunity to change the regional opinion of Detroit. And the key to this is positive media coverage of the city. Most people in the region have the presumption that Detroit will not be ready and get panned by the national media. Some will even be sadisticly waiting for the first stories to trickle out just so they can tell their workmates that they were right. BUT, imagine this: the city gets glowing (for Detroit) reviews. The media enjoyed the resturants, bars, entertainment and write about this. Think of the thousands of suburbanites waking up and reading the headline "BREAKING NEWS: DETROIT IS NOT THAT BAD!"

Perhaps this is just a dream of mine, but this event holds more regional implications than national.

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You're sadly right about how most in the region think the SB will pan out in the media. I too have comments from people wanting to see Detroit trashed in media and it really speaks to how sick people in this region can be. I think coverage will exaclty like you predicted Detroit isn't Chicago, but it's not 5th level of hell . My only worry is these reviews will mostly be ignored becuase it doesn't reinforce their views of the city any and all postive coverage will taken as an anomaly

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Unfortunately, I think the media reviews are going to be a mixed bag and even if they're mostly positive, your coworkers are going to be able to cite the ones that put the city down. It's a bad situation. The hope is that the number of positive articles will have an effect on the suburbanites who truly do not harbor ill will towards the city and who can look at all this new information and judge for themselves. Detroit isn't Chicago (not necessarily a bad thing) but neither is anyplace in Oakland County!

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Don't forget, there are people who prefer suburban or rural settings. To those people, it doesn't matter what city. They wouldn't live in or even regularly visit "the best of" urban cities - nor would they necessarily have kind things to say.

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