Why Detroit is poised to come roaring back

Detroit is the perfect canvas on which to paint a portrait of what’s possible.

Today, the city of 700,000 — down from 1.8 million in 1950 — has 90,000 vacant lots and 70,000 abandoned buildings as well as a 36 percent poverty rate and 23 percent unemployment rate, both the highest in the nation. Motown is, arguably, a city that has run into a ditch.

But there are hundreds of initiatives, from tiny startups to massive public-private partnerships, aimed at jump-starting the beleaguered city and putting Detroit squarely on the road to recovery — not as its former industrial self, but as a hub of innovation. It is a model for how to retrofit a city as a hotbed of sustainability — economic, social and environmental.

“A lot of big changes are happening,” Dan Kinkead, director of projects at Detroit Future City.

Kinkead’s organization is at the forefront of where Detroit is going. Funded by the city’s indigenous foundation community and working closely with city officials, it is one of the largest civic engagement projects in the United States, involving hundreds of meetings and 163,000 “interactions” — survey respondents, conversations and the like — as part of a multi-year planning process.

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