Regional approach urged to move Detroit forward

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Detroit — The city needs a master plan to guide future development, but also needs to take a regional approach to revitalization, Detroit's Chief Operating Officer Gary Brown said Tuesday.

The Cobo Center authority, the "grand bargain" that helped resolve Detroit's bankruptcy, the Detroit Institute of Arts millage and the new Great Lakes Water Authority are all examples of regional cooperation that are moving Detroit forward, Brown said.

Population numbers in the city will continue to drop until Detroit can solve its crisis in education and public safety, Brown told a crowd of nearly 300 people at "The Making of a Great City," the first of six community meetings by Detroit Future City.

"Get over the numbers that we're not growing," Brown said. "Let's manage the city well. Let's find regional approaches to fixing the problems as opposed to doing it all by ourselves."

The event drew nearly 300 people mostly Detroit residents — to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

Roxanne Qualls, former mayor and city council member in Cincinnati, was one of the speakers. During her three terms as mayor of Cincinnati in the 1990s, she focused on revitalizing neighborhoods, increasing home ownership and redeveloping Cincinnati's central riverfront.

Qualls said her advice for Detroit was to have a vision, a plan and leadership.

"To make any of that meaningful you have to have capacity: Identify resources and make them significant," she said.

Discussions on Tuesday night focused on the Detroit Future City plan, a framework to guide city revitalization. It's a 345-page book completed in 2012 that is seen as the core of a city master plan.

Launched as "Detroit Works" and renamed Detroit Future City, the plan is an exhaustive effort to engage citizens, map the city, analyze land use and population, and make recommendations for the best ways to use land and the city's water, people and other resources.

Dayne Walling, mayor of Flint, which adopted the first city master plan in 50 years, said Detroit should make the process of adopting a city master plan as public as possible and give it time and work with those to get the work done.

Khalil Ligon, the southeast Michigan outreach coordinator for Alliance for the Great Lakes, told the group to remain hopeful and stay engaged.

"Take a walk in your neighborhood. Just go run down that streets, ride your bike down that street. Once we do that, we can be that change. If I want to see the walking and vibrancy, it's on me to do it," she said.