menu

John Gerzema: Don’t Short The Motor City

John Gerzema: Don’t Short The Motor City
Advertising

Urban pioneers such as the "Good 
Girls Go to Paris" restaurant create a 'virtuous circle' in Detroit.

John Gerzema
  • 29 november 2010

Given the apocalyptic panorama, any first-time visitor who landed in Detroit and drove around the city for the first time would half-expect to see marauding Mad Max figures come roaring down the street on handmade battlewagons powered by Allison diesel engines. Long in economic retreat, the median home price in Detroit dropped to below $8,000 in 2009. The 80,000-seat Silverdome stadium sold for $583,000—roughly the equivalent of a studio apartment in Manhattan. Far more compelling than the statistics was the city’s landscape: abandoned factories, vacant commercial buildings, and neighborhoods where three-quarters of the homes have been boarded, burned, or bulldozed. In the most desolate residential areas you could drive for blocks and see few signs of life except for stray dogs and, occasionally, a coyote.

But if you look more closely you can find something that most outsiders miss: a Detroit that is vibrant, creative, and optimistic. Artists, small business owners and urban farmers have flocked to the inner city to take advantage of inexpensive land and limited municipal oversight.  Evidence of this arose in early 2010 when roughly a dozen young Detroiters drafted a pledge—“The Detroit Declaration”— that made public their long-term commitment to the city and outlined principles that should guide citizens, businesspeople, and political leaders who hope to shape the city’s future. Beginning with the simple statement, “Cities are the greatest expression of civilization” the declaration calls for a “greater, healthier, more vibrant, urban and livable Detroit.”

With low cost loans from a non-profit civic organization, Torya Blanchard (pictured) opened a tiny crepe restaurant to share her love of all things French with her hometown. Serving low-cost but high quality meals Good 
Girls Go to Paris quickly became profitable and Torya turned to help a competitor open nearby. Both restaurants only employ local Detroit citizens and source from urban farmers, creating a ‘virtuous circle’, which has attracted other new urban pioneers.  “Detroit needs all of us,” explains Blanchard during a brief break in her workday at her shop. “The people who have stayed here when so many others moved out are committed,” she says. “They love the city—I mean I love the city—and there are still enough of us around that there is enough business for everyone who wants to try something.

Detroit represents an indestructible human spirit that arose in the very depths of the Great Recession in the place that was hit hardest of all. As it turns out a hard-luck city can also be a modern frontier of opportunity.

Good Girls Go To Paris is one of fifty companies interviewed for the Wall Street Journal best-seller: Spend Shift: How the Post-Crisis Values Revolution is Changing the Way We Buy, Sell and Live.

John Gerzema (@johngerzema/twitter) is president of Brandasset Consulting and Young & Rubicam’s Brandasset Valuator, the world’s largest database of consumer behavior, attitudes and values. Michael d’antonio is a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, author and reporter.

Advertising
Trending

How Indiegogo Is Becoming An Adult Product Destination

Retail
Home september 23, 2016

Watch This Fire Pit Dance Along To Your Favorite Song

Music City Fire is a system that is designed to flicker in time to ambient music

Automotive september 23, 2016

Slick GPS Navigator Gives Directions To Moped Riders

This small, round device attaches to a sideview mirror to display maps for safer traveling

Trending

Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Home september 23, 2016

A Clock That Beautifully Manages Your Information Overload

The wall-mounted timekeeper is made to help people maintain focus and stay up to date with their appointments

Arts & Culture september 23, 2016

Performance Piece Blends Dancers Into Folds Of Light

The work provides commentary on the increasing connection between programmed and analog dimensions

Related Expert

Catherine Balsam-Schwaber

Brand Storytelling, TV Entertainment

Design & Architecture september 23, 2016

Design Firm Adapts Childhood Homes For Unemployed Young Adults

The studio has unveiled three prototypes of transformed living spaces for people forced to move back in with their families

Health september 23, 2016

These Chocolate Squares Claim To Reverse The Aging Process

A group of researchers from Cambridge University have developed a candy bar that promises to give you a youthful glow

Cities september 23, 2016

Food-Producing Architecture Competition Seeks To Better Feed Cities

A design challenge in Copenhagen highlights the need and beauty of urban farming

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry
NEW

PSFK Op-Ed september 21, 2016

Creative Agency Founder: Using VR As A Race Relationship Tool

Maurice Bernstein, CEO and Founder of Giant Step, explores the value in transforming headsets from high-tech entertainment tools into empathy machines

PSFK Labs september 22, 2016

The Future Of Work: Why Innovation Is Every Employee’s Job

PSFK Labs sits down with management at Johnson & Johnson to learn how the company comes up with their next ‘big idea’

Health september 23, 2016

Wearable Monitors Sun Exposure To Prevent Sunburn

The clip monitors UV rays to make sure you're not receiving too much sunlight

Op-Ed september 23, 2016

Productivity Expert: The Magic Of The Five-Hour Workday

Stephan Aarstol, Founder of Tower Paddle Boards, explains why the modern notion of office hours needs to evolve

Culture september 23, 2016

This Exhibition’s Crowning Jewel Is An 18k Gold-Plated Toilet

The piece, titled 'America,' is meant to raise questions about the country's wealth inequality

Culture september 23, 2016

Match Up With Dates On Tinder Based On Your Music Preferences

A new partnership with Spotify lets people pair up based on shared tastes in artists

Entertainment september 23, 2016

Capture, Cut Up, And Configure Your World In 360 Degrees

To meet a booming 360 and VR video-capturing industry, a multimedia software company bolstered its media editing suite for 360-video creation

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders
NEW

Advertising september 23, 2016

These Trucks Drove Around In Circles For 24 Hours To Keep Time

The giant ticking clock was created by 14 Scania vehicles in a deserted airfield

Advertising september 23, 2016

Buy Movie Tickets Directly From Your Facebook Profile

The new feature is part of a campaign from Fandango to further imbed social media into the ticket vendor's digital presence

Asia september 23, 2016

Co-Working Space Brings The Calming Atmosphere Of Nature Indoors

An architectural firm in China has designed a new type of shared office that prioritizes the natural environment

No search results found.