Detroiters face a lot of downtown dust over the next few years as the city demolishes the old and builds the new. But what are we building? So far, we have three Las Vegas-style gambling casinos, two professional sports stadiums and this thing called Campus Martius on and around the Hudson's rubble.
All of these developments will call for huge public subsidies for people who are already quite rich. The casinos will cater to folks who come down to gamble and then go home. The stadium patrons will enjoy the games and then go home. Campus Martius, a rather ill-defined development, will focus on business and retail that will come if they build it.
The big missing ingredient here is residential. Among the goals tossed about at the big downtown development plans unveiled last year was a vibrant 24-hour downtown with shops and foot traffic. In order to achieve this vibrant downtown you need people living there. But there are no known plans for significant residential development in the downtown area.
So far, the only developments with potential for 24-hour action are the casinos.
Of course, casino, stadium and even shop owners don't care much where their patrons come from as long as the cash register is ringing. Bottom line, it falls to the city to look out for the real vitality of our community. That vitality comes from people living and doing business together in a place they care about. Isn't the part that will really make the difference important enough to be part of the plan for Campus Martius and elsewhere downtown?
If you build it, they will come. But unless you plan on it, they probably won't stay.