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November 5, 2013

Detroit Residents Take On Challenge of Reinvigorating Their City

Residents of Detroit are hoping to reinvigorate their communities after the city’s bankruptcy filing earlier this year by attracting developers to rehab blighted buildings, create new jobs and assist would-be buyers and renters.

Susan Mosey, who runs to nonprofit neighborhood organization Midtown Detroit, says one of the biggest obstacles is housing.

“We can’t produce it fast enough,” she said. “There’s a lot more people who want to live here right now than we have current housing available.”

Other neighborhoods have different problems, poverty being chief among them. Kirk Mayes of the Brightmoor Alliance is trying to restore one of the city’s most blighted areas.

“The neighborhood is a poverty-stricken community,” he said. “You have emergency food challenges, where hunger is an issue, low education outcomes for our children. But we do believe that any of these challenges, all of these challenges can be overcome by the right time, attention and focus of the people who are here.”

To do so, members of the Motor City Blight Busters, a part of the Brightmoor Alliance, have started tearing down and cleaning up the abandoned mess in the neighborhood. The groups are also building community gardens as a way to produce food and communalism.

“A garden does more than you would think in inspiring people that their hope is not seeded in the wrong place,” said Mayes. “When people see people putting that kind of work in and it resulting into something that’s beautiful that everybody can share, it does start to make those little differences in people’s lives, that you will see, you know, yes, these are shuttered, boarded-up homes, but everybody’s grass is cut.”

Technology companies are also moving into the area. Twitter opened a small Detroit office, and Google will soon follow. Rock Ventures, a venture capital company, has invested $17 million to help a number of smaller startups.

“We need that raw material of these smart people that want to be here. And without them, we can’t be successful,” said Matt Cullen, president of Rock Ventures. “And we have found that people really are just passionate and motivated about coming to Detroit and getting engaged.”

Warm up questions
  1. Where is Detroit located and how is it an important American city historically?
  2. What does blight mean? Explain then what it means for a house or community to be blighted.

    1. blight
    noun \ˈblīt\
    : a disease that makes plants dry up and die
    : something that causes harm or damage like a disease
    : a damaged condition

    Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

  3. What challenges are faced by kids living in impoverished neighborhoods?
  4. What does it mean for a city to go bankrupt?
Discussion questions
  1. Will Google and Twitter moving to Detroit help the city? Explain your answer.
  2. What types of infrastructure are important when re-building a bankrupt city?
  3. How can gardening as a community help residents? Do you think it really has an effect on people?
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