In expensive land, "fixer-upper" real estate, and an infrastructure designed to serve twice as many people as it does today all of these factors are listed among Detroit's challenges. Looked at another way, and in tandem with some careful right-sizing efforts, these features are Detroit's greatest asset: room to create.
People, especially down-trodden Detroiters, seem to make a habit of listing all the things that Detroit is missing. I don't think it is foolishly optimistic (optimistic, sure, but not foolishly so) to look at those missing pieces as opportunities. Combined with a low cost-of-living, the features I listed above should make Detroit a mecca for social, business and artistic entrepreneurs.
To become that, Detroit's leaders must commit to valuing and fostering three things: diversity, flexibility and innovation.
While we suffer from a cultural legacy that doesn't prioritize entreprencurialism in workers. Detroit has a history of innovation, from music to manufacturing. This tradition should be remembered and now: democratized. Micro-investments in risky new ideas, both in business and the non-profit sector, small business development, education that bolsters creativity, even in non-creative fields - all of these activities can encourage new ideas and empower people to run with them.
Flexibility leads to change at all levels--not just from the leadership-down. Flexible zoning, responsiveness to community organizations and creative economic development tools can further contribute to Detroit's elasticity as businesses and...