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November 12, 2014 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2014-11-12

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From Page 5B

are addressing the same concerns.
"I don't think anyone has it solved."
A changing demographic
Not only does Greater Downtown differ
economically and racially from the rest of the
city, many argue that there's a lack of integra-
tion within Downtown. The Black, working
or middle class population and the white,
wealthy newcomers are hardly mixing. Some
even say these new firms, and the people they
bring, are the harbingers of gentrification.
Williams is one person that argues that
gentrification is occurring in Detroit. The
controversial concept is defined as the buy-
ing and renovating of houses and stores by
affluent people in a rundown urban center,
raising property values but displacing poorer
residents as they've gradually priced out of
these neighborhoods. Williams proposed a
,4ew sort of gentrification called "cultural dis-
placement." This phenomenon is reflected by
the strain occurring with the chasm between
the affluent white demographic and lower
income Black demographic.
Retailers in Greater Downtown are
increasingly catering to a white, educated and
mow wealthy demographic. Lunch spots in this
area used to be $5 or $6 for a meal, but now
customers are expected to fork over around

Even Smith, of UpTo, said his apartment
building changed. When he moved in three
years ago, it was a mix of families, elderly folk,
Blacks and whites. Now, it's entirely young
and white. And rent has increased, too.
"It's very noticeable how the demograph-
ics has shifted toward young white profes-
sionals," Smith said.
This type of interaction is creating "a
Detroit of old and a Detroit of new," Williams
Williams lived in Midtown asa University
student when he participated in the Semester
in Detroit program. Ina city that's more than
80 percent Black, he often socialized with
white people.
"By being based in Midtown and Wayne
State, I felt like I was in a part of Detroit I
did not know growing up," Williams said. "I
felt like I was in the same bubble that Ann
Arbor represents that is shielded from dif-
ferent communities challenged socially and
Indeed, Smith, of UpTo, said his Detroit
was a "contained community" of young peo-
ple who work at QuickenLoans, Blue Cross
Blue Shield, law firms, nonprofits or start-
ups. Just about everyone is working on com-
munity projects.
"We go out and I know people everywhere

we go," Smith said. "It's awesome. I love the
Foley wrote in his blog last year that tech
startups, microbreweries and vegan cupcake
stands are not going help the city.
"That's not gonna do anything for the old
lady who goes to church on Sundays," he said
in the interview.
However, Thomas emphasized that better-
ing Detroit schools, police and other public
goods requires cash. And that's only going to
come through property and income taxes.
"I used to have arguments with Michael
(Williams)," she said with a small laugh. "He
was trying to shape that thesis of gentrifica-
tion, and my argument would always be but
what's the alternative? Detroit was being
emptied out, completely abandoned. The
quandary is that in spite of what people might
see as cultural displacement or discomfort,
the fact is that Detroit was suffering."
The split of Detroit, into old and new, into
decades-old storefronts and shiny new start-
ups downtown, might be a necessary evil to
rebuild the city and give it the funds it needs.
But Williams is still hopeful Black and
white, rich and poor, college educated and
not, will converge. He said Detroit is the place
where itmust occur.
"We offer an opportunity that allows us to
shift our thinking and our spirit on how we

define our community," Williams said. "You
have different, mixed communities coming
together in a space. If we hone the power of
that, it is a potential to seize on the challenges
of Detroit and do it better than ever before."
Back downtown, in Dan Gilbert's M@
dison Building, University alum Reid Tatoris
works as the co-founder of Are You A Human,
a service that aims to make the process of typ-
ing out words in an image before logging into
a webpage fun.
Many of his employees live in the city. For
Tatoris, the decision to live and work down-
town was a no-brainer; he said Detroit was
the most interesting place he had ever lived
"It's not comfortable yet," Tatoris said."We
don't have a Target or a Starbucks on every
corner. It's kind of like a scavenger hunt,look-
ingfor barsor coffee shops.Butwhenyou find
them, they're some of the most unique places
you'll ever see in the world."
He opened in Detroit because he wanted to
help rebuild the city. He said he has bad days
all the time while growing his startup, but the
exhaustion is ameliorated just from looking
out his window.
"We think to ourselves, 'Maybe this day
was bad for us, but for this community we're
part ofit was agood day,'"Tatoris said. "I find
that really motivating."

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