Detroit's Future: What Would You Do?

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Oli Scarff / Getty Images ; Images Massimo Di Nonno / Getty Images

Reverend Jesse Jackson (L); architect Daniel Libeskind (R)

Fight Crime; Dine Outdoors
Make the reduction of crime the highest priority. Until citizens feel safe on the streets and in their beds, improvement in other areas will be difficult to achieve. Encourage restaurants to put tables and chairs on the sidewalks and to serve meals there. The presence of laughing customers outside makes pedestrians and local residents more psychologically secure.
— Kenneth T. Jackson, urban historian and author of Crabgrass Frontier

Rethink Transportation
Detroit is the only metro region in the U.S. without a metro transportation authority. If we begin to think about the role of transportation in the region differently, how we move from place to place becomes a crucial question. Efficiency — and the idea that we shouldn't have to rely on a car so much — becomes part of the question. I like to think of Detroit not just as the home of automobile innovation. It's the home of transportation innovation.
— Toni Griffin, urban-planning consultant for the city of Detroit

Encourage Homesteaders
I would create a 21st century Urban Homestead Act. Why not give away land in the center of the city in exchange for building on the land? This would be a new way to open downtown to the pioneering spirit of America. Years ago I lived near Detroit and was a witness to a seemingly unstoppable urban decline. But I also lived for many years in Berlin and saw an even more devastated city come back to life through creativity and a will to succeed.
— Daniel Libeskind, architect

Be More Entrepreneurial
A smaller population means a bigger canvas for reinventing the city, allowing it to become more self-sustaining, grow more of its own food on urban farms and produce more of its own energy with wind, solar and biomass fields. The collapse of the auto industry pushes Detroit toward a more entrepreneurial future. A loss of population can be viewed as an opportunity. To quote the Japanese poet Masahide, "Barn's burnt down, now I can see the moon."
— John Gallagher, author of Reimagining Detroit

Leverage the Auto Bailout
In Detroit, there's not one chain grocery store. You can leverage chain stores for an urban-policy plan and for reindustrialization. Since the government is so heavily invested in GM, it can leverage that. If you're going to bail out the auto industry, then make sure to link it to reinvestment.
— Jesse Jackson, civil rights leader and president of the Rainbow Push Coalition

Aim to be Unique and Real
It's about knowing what's real and not believing your own press releases. Detroit needs a serious understanding of the market and the competitive advantages that will underpin future economic drivers. It could be technology related to university research or automotive expertise. And demand excellence in design. Don't get trapped in an "it'll do" mentality.
— Tom Murphy, mayor of Pittsburgh (1994-2006) and senior fellow, Urban Land Institute

Go for Green Tech
With its concentration and tradition of top engineering talent, Detroit can branch out into intercity rail, advanced batteries, renewable-energy systems and smart grids linked to transport. This may seem utopian, but our nation needs these technologies, and the continuation of abandonment, despair and unemployment is unthinkable.
— Jeffrey D. Sachs, Detroit native and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University

Enlist the Business Community
There's got to be an aggressive effort for the political culture to involve the business culture. When I was mayor of Atlanta [1982-90], I gave business leaders my phone number. You can't just look at the political unit of Detroit. You have to consider the economic unit of Detroit.
— Andrew Young, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. (1977-79)

Strengthen the Core
Gather more of what population and urban activity Detroit has toward the center to make it strong enough to hold an urban area together. Pulling the city back to its center will allow Detroit to make more use of its extraordinary inventory of 20th century architecture. But it will only work if it is part of a plan to strengthen the city and make it truly the anchor of its region, not an island apart.
— Paul Goldberger, Architecture Critic, The New Yorker