Duggan touts Detroit ‘turnaround’ in D.C.

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan took a victory lap Tuesday, promoting the city’s “turnaround” as banking firm JPMorgan Chase announced a $125 million initiative to revitalize urban neighborhoods — a program patterned after the company’s work in Detroit.

None of the money is targeted for Detroit, but the city is free to apply for it, according to JPMorgan Chase.

Duggan appeared on a panel with JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon to tout the company’s new PRO Neighborhoods program, which is aimed at identifying and supporting “solutions for creating economic opportunity in disadvantaged neighborhoods around the country.”

The mayor and the banking executive said the program is being modeled after a successful initiative in Detroit that saw JPMorgan Chase commit to investing $100 million in the Motor City over five years.

Duggan recounted being surprised when he heard from Dimon about JPMorgan Chase’s interest in investing in Detroit.

“When you’re in Detroit and a banker calls and says, ‘I want to give you money,’ you’re skeptical,” he said. “The first meeting was somewhat tense because I had very specific ideas on what needed to be done.”

Duggan said the partnership with JPMorgan Chase has paid dividends for Detroit. He cited blight removal efforts in distressed parts of the city and development around the M-1 light rail line, which is under construction.

“We’ve got 5,000 residential units in this city either under construction now or in planning,” he said. “For a city that’s lost population for 50 years in a row, it’s pretty amazing. We’re pretty close to the point where we’re going to have the first population increase for the first time in a half a century. It’s been the kind of partnership that there’s no doubt is driving the turnaround in this city.”

Detroit’s population has continued declining in recent years, down to an estimated 680,250 in 2014 from the 2010 census of 713,862. But the city’s white population was projected to have increased by nearly 8,000 in 2014, the first significant increase since 1950, according to a Detroit News analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

Dimon said major investment in Detroit, which was bankrupt not long ago, is long overdue.

“All of the major American cities, most of them were revitalized in the 1990s ... other than Detroit,” he said.

Dimon said he wants “Detroit to be an example ... of government, business, not-for-profit, working together” to make improvements as the banking firm looks to replicate the investment in distressed neighborhoods in other cities across the country.

JPMorgan Chase said the new initiative “will invest in collaborative partnerships and innovative financial solutions to revitalize neighborhoods by growing small businesses, creating health and social service facilities, improving access to affordable housing and collecting better data to study changing neighborhood demographics.

“As the economy recovers, much of the growth is often channeled toward reviving commercial corridors and downtowns in U.S. cities,” the company said in a statement. “As a result, many disadvantaged neighborhoods, where low-income people live, are being left behind.”

Dimon said Tuesday the results of his company’s investment in Detroit thus far are encouraging, but he acknowledged there is a long way to go before the city’s comeback can be considered complete.

“We have a 30-year trainwreck,” he said. “Thirty years. We saw it coming, and we did nothing.”

Duggan expressed optimism Detroit could continue rebounding.

“What’s happening in the city is between us abolishing the burned-out houses, getting 60,000 street lights on, getting the ambulances to show up in half the time that they did, people are moving back into the neighborhoods and stabilizing neighborhoods,” he said.

“More importantly, people who were moving out to the suburbs, they’ve decided to stay. I never in my lifetime thought I would see a time when, from southwest Detroit to the west side of Detroit to the east side of Detroit, property values would be coming back.”


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Twitter: @Keith_Laing