Foresight is 2020

What’s ahead for Detroit five years down the road? Here are some ‘wish lists’ and predictions.

What will Detroit be like in 2020? Five years is a long time. Think back to what was on metro Detroiters’ minds in 2010. Quicken Loans was just moving in; Blue Cross Blue Shield announced plans to relocate workers downtown, too. Neither the London Chop House nor Joe Muer Seafood had reopened. Jennifer Granholm was governor; Dave Bing was mayor. Tigers fireballing pitcher Joel Zumaya’s elbow blew up that June. Bankruptcy was just a gathering cloud on the horizon.

It’s fair to say there is some optimism in the business, arts, and restaurant communities about Detroit’s future. So we asked people from different vocations and with different perspectives what they want the city to look like in the next five years. Here’s their take — just don’t hold them to it.

“I would like to see increased mobility, but not just bike lanes. To have a healthy, working city you have to have a means for people to get from A to B without necessarily driving a car. I would love to see more green paths, and instead of fixing roads, let’s just tear ’em up. Put a double-wide sidewalk in. Let’s create a way that I can walk from Corktown on a pathway to downtown instead of walking down rocky Michigan Avenue.”

— Jason Hall, co-founder of Slow Roll




I’d like to see a Detroit where everyone respects each other, everyone is kind to each other, everyone is friendly to each other, but at the same time not trying to erase the things that made Detroit what it is… I think when we talk about ‘New Detroit,’ there’s the attitude that these new things that are coming into Detroit — the new restaurants, the new pop-ups, the new stores — it’s almost like it’s becoming its own city, and we’re not experiencing what the rest of the city has to offer.

— Aaron Foley, Detroit-area writer

“I hope to see more pride in the city from Detroiters and a more positive view of the city nationwide and worldwide.”

— Crystal King, Renaissance High School graduate and freshman at Michigan State University

“Detroit has one of the most vibrant urban agriculture movements (and) there are neighborhoods that are being re-spirited after years of decline. …. Wonderful new institutions like the James and Grace Boggs School are making an impact in many children’s lives. Common spaces like the Eastern Market and the Riverfront Conservancy are creating healthy ways for people to come together. In five years, I hope that this spirit has spread (into) the many neighborhoods that are still isolated, dangerous, lack public transportation, good schools, and safe places for children to play. I hope that Detroit’s revitalization creates economic and social opportunity for more Detroiters, celebrating the unique community spirit that has defined our resilient, soulful city.”

— Jackie Victor, co-owner of Avalon International Breads

“In the educational leadership community, we have a bunch of different things that we’d like to see, but I think if we could just start with safety — safety for kids to walk to school and get on buses and walk down the street … That’s the lowest rung on Maslow’s Hierarchy (of Needs). If you feel safe and you’re fed, then you can learn. I think that’s the primary goal over the next five years, and I think that’s starting to happen.”

— Angel Garcia III, acting principal of Western International High School

“Prior attempts to stabilize Detroit were one step forward and two steps back, but it slowed down the decline. The game changed. Now we’re one step forward and half a step back. Downtown and Midtown are on a very striking rebound. (But) Detroit is 138.9 square miles. The other 120 +/- square miles continue in decline and will not experience reversal for decades. There are an estimated 80,000 abandoned homes. The mayor is doing as much as he can, as much as anyone can. (But) tax and mortgage foreclosures are adding nearly as many to the abandoned housing list as are being removed. Why would anybody live in proximity to an abandoned house? Detroit’s population is roughly 660,000 today. There is no reason to believe that it will not drop … perhaps, well below 600,000, before it begins to increase again.”

— John Mogk, Wayne State University law professor who focuses on urban law and policy 

“There’s a limited amount of higher education institutions in Detroit, and Wayne State, University of Detroit Mercy, Wayne County Community College, and Marygrove College are very prominent in educating students from the Detroit area. This year (Wayne State) is collaborating with them on a major NIH grant, so I would say in the future we’ll be working towards more collaboration with other universities and coalitions to increase opportunities for students. … We all offer something different for the college-age population and that’s a demographic that’s decreasing in Detroit and southeastern Michigan, so we need to foster collaboration in order to provide opportunities if we want students to stay at home.”

— M. Roy Wilson, Wayne State University president

“Detroit could conceivably become any other mediocre city if (others) build stuff that’s typical or standard. But the potential that exists here exists nowhere else. Detroit can become a city that is so different than any other city. Berlin is a great example of that in Europe. Detroit is so spread out. Maybe it’s big enough to be a city with different options. I want to build things that promote the way I want to live. I want vitality. I don’t know how to create it, yet. (But) I’m going to create what’s interesting and inspiring to me — and hope that there are people who agree.” 

— Philip Kafka, real estate investor

“I moved to Detroit back in 1976. The neighborhood I lived in was very peaceful, but today, the crime rates are high. Unless we bring harmony to Detroit, the city will never make a comeback. The future of Detroit hinges on the people who reside there. There is too much of a focus on the downtown area, which is great, but we need to focus more on the neighborhoods. We need to provide good schools; otherwise nobody would want to live in Detroit. When this happens — one day, very soon — then Detroit will make its comeback.”

— Osama Siblani, publisher, The Arab American News

“I feel pretty optimistic about Detroit’s future with regards to the transit industry. We have a real opportunity to create a robust transit system that would make it a lot easier for a lot of people to get around … going downtown for a ball game without having to worry about parking, or going to visit friends in Mount Clemens or as far away as Ann Arbor would be a possibility. … Right now, I’d say we’re only at about 10 percent of the way there, but I think in five years we’ll be in a place where having a car isn’t an absolute necessity. … And a lot of people can’t get ahead in life because they don’t have access to one.”

— Megan Owens, director of the Transportation Riders United 

I’d like Detroit to be a place where there is demonstrable progress in addressing social equity in terms of the quality of life in the neighborhoods beyond the fanfare in downtown and Midtown. (We need) to create a business district where the energy overflows to neighborhoods that are begging for serious attention … to ensure contracts really involve minorities, small businesses, and neighborhood businesses. How can we live in a city whose comeback has been trumpeted so much but only to the chagrin of the senior citizen who feels like a prisoner in exile in her own home because of crime and blight?”

— Bankole Thompson, WDET-FM “Redline” program host and Detroit News columnist

“In five years, I hope Detroit becomes a hub for cut and sew manufacturing, especially in terms of apparel, from design and pattern making to sample making and production. By creating a garment district where (like-minded) companies from the industry can cluster for greater ease of shared resources, job creation, and training… we are well on our way to turning this vision into reality.”

— Karen Buscemi, president of Detroit Garment Group



“The downtown Detroit area is going to be second to none, and comparable to any place in New York or Chicago, I virtually guarantee it. … Around 7 o’clock, downtown used to be empty because everyone would finish work and go home. Now, there are more residential areas downtown … so more people are coming home to Detroit … As the city continues to pick up, people living outside the city will also get in their cars … to go out on the town. These are the people that can afford to eat out every night, and they’re going to want to do it here, for maybe the second time in Detroit’s history.”

— Larry Mongo, owner of Café D’Mongos’ Speakeasy 

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