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Detroit's Midtown on path to recovery


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I was quite angry to find that the online version today didn't allow the unsubscribed reader to view this online :angry:. Apparently this is a series of articles about midtown, although how are we supposed to know about Midtown's revival if we can't read about it?

Detroit's Midtown on path to recovery

The Associated Press

3/10/04 4:00 AM

DETROIT (AP) -- A two-square-mile neighborhood in Detroit, where most saw decay and despair years ago, is now being hailed as a harbinger of the city's rebirth.

Since 1998, 742 building permits for $796 million in rehabilitation and construction projects have been issued for the Cass, Woodward and Brush corridors -- an area known as Midtown. The projects include condominiums costing as much as $400,000, but that are a stone's throw away from low-income housing.

In a city long described as the poster child for the maladies of urban America, to many residents the change represents the seeds of a much-awaited boom.

"I look at what this place was like 3 1/2 years ago, and there is no way I would pay anywhere close to that," Phil Grier, a developer and resident of the Waldorf Loft Condominiums on Cass, told the Detroit Free Press for a Tuesday story.

"But the change is just remarkable. Dope boys don't own the corner anymore, and it's a lot safer now."

Signs of development are everywhere. Instead of talk of crime in the area -- once considered Detroit's most dangerous -- the conversation has shifted to the bars and restaurants, such as the 2-year-old Agave restaurant, as well as the symphony and the other institutions that dot the neighborhood.

The old image of the gritty neighborhood hasn't faded entirely. Dark alleys and graffiti-covered buildings still intimidate outsiders and residents alike, even though the homicide rate has dropped yearly between 1999 and 2003.

Attorney Kenneth Davies, who has lived in the Cass Corridor area since 1958, says that's what gives the neighborhood its urban charm.

"You know a city has to be a little edgy," he said. "That's why we live here."

Midtown is trying to spur its development by capitalizing on assets such as Wayne State University, ambitious developers, historic buildings and eager residents.

Much of the stimulus for the change has come from the University Cultural Center Association, a group that since the 1980s has helped small developers cut through red tape in order to acquire and restore vacant buildings.

While the area has taken on a more cosmopolitan vibe over the years, it has only recently stepped out of the shadows of other development efforts in Detroit. In part, that delay was because it lacked a corporate benefactor such as General Motors Corp. and Compuware Corp., both of which are headquartered downtown.

Midtown supporters say it's about time the area's development is noticed. When Gov. Jennifer Granholm launched her push for "cool cities" in Michigan, Midtown was already there and is, many say, Detroit's best chance to mirror the trendy neighborhoods of New York City or Chicago.

"It has restaurants, bars, clubs, lofts, the arts," said Kurt Metzger, research director at Wayne State University's Center for Urban Studies. "If it can't happen here -- where the whole mix is already established -- it can't happen anywhere in the city.

"The young singles, the creative class, the whole 'cool' class has gotten this area going."

Care is being taken to not push for progress at the expense of those who can ill-afford the higher rents. But some low-income residents are worried.

"People are scared with the development, 'cause we don't know where we're going to go," said Elmer (Chillie) Mack, a 57-year-old Detroiter who frequents a homeless shelter in the neighborhood.

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