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A tall crane sits next to a large dig site in the middle of a downtown.
Construction at the Hudson’s site.

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Curbed’s holiday wish list for Detroit in 2020

Here are seven “presents” we’d like for next year

Now’s that time of year, several weeks before the holidays, when everyone starts marking their gift wish list. What presents would make our lives better over the next year?

Though we have less influence over the people giving the gifts, we’re also entitled as residents to make a wish list for our city. Detroit has its share of major issues, so we can’t expect to snap our fingers and have a fully funded public school system. Instead, we put together a list of realistic hopes that would make the city better for its citizens over the next year and beyond.

Here are the seven things on our Detroit holiday wish list.

Cranes in the sky at Hudson’s

Bedrock Detroit broke ground at the estimated $909-million Hudson’s building in December 2017. Since then, it’s been excavating and installing deep penetrating caissons that form the building’s foundation and underground parking. The project is around two years behind schedule and has been scaled back slightly—it may no longer be the tallest building in the state.

Our hopes for Hudson’s in 2020 are pretty modest: We’d just like to see some upward construction. Bedrock’s last update said that that should happen in the spring, and the Detroit Free Press did spot crews assembling the base of a potential crane. So signs are positive this will happen next year.

A tall, vacant stone building in front of a cement parking lot. There’s graffiti around the first floor.
The vacant Hotel Eddystone.

Hold the Ilitches accountable

District Detroit made our list of trends that didn’t survive the 2010s. Anyone who had hopes of a vibrant area of redeveloped buildings filled with shops and residents surely had those dreams dashed by the end of the decade.

Instead of wishing for the district to come to life, it would be better to hold the Ilitches accountable for their false promises. The family thats owns the taxpayer funded Little Caesars Arena and Olympia Development would rather demolish or sit on property than redevelop it, construct self-serving buildings like the Little Caesars HQ, and do the bare minimum to meet development obligations.

The city could start by demanding redevelopment of the Hotel Eddystone, an abandoned hotel near Woodward Avenue. Olympia missed its deadline to begin work on the building in August 2018, but agreed to new terms with the city in May. It’s also missed multiple deadlines to file a development plan for a lot on the northwest corner of Woodward Avenue and I-75.

Those two would be first steps. Beyond that, the city’s hands may be tied. But it should seek any avenue possible to compel the Ilitches to redevelop its many vacant holdings.

A huge surface parking lot. Many buildings stand in the distance.
One of many surface parking lots in the Cass Corridor.
Photo by Michelle Gerard

No new surface lots

Related to the above wish, we agree with Detroiters for Parking Reform that there should be a moratorium on surface parking lots. For too long, the city has allowed property owners to demolish buildings, some with historic significance, for what is probably the least efficient and valuable use of land.

The most egregious example of this was the Detroit Saturday Night Building. The demolition of the attractive brick and stone building—the last standing structure on its side of the block—created space for a total of 12 parking spots.

This is not how a great city revitalizes.

A green and white bus in front of a large office building.
Regional transit would help many of metro Detroit’s issues.

Fund regional transit

We may feel that we need more surface parking because public transit is so inadequate in metro Detroit. While the system has improved in recent years, and added a unified payment system, it’s still severely underfunded.

The easiest way to remedy that would be to pass a millage on the 2020 ballot. Southeast Michigan leaders are already gearing up to get it on the ballot and then campaign for its passage.

Fund the Joe Louis Greenway

This now 32-mile non-motorized loop that extends from the riverfront to Highland Park, Dearborn, and Hamtramck has made our most transformative developments list continuously for many months. Bike culture has picked up in Detroit over the past few years, and an extended greenway would give people more ways to safely get around the city.

The final design is expected to be completed sometime in 2020, but what the project really needs is money. It’s gotten some philanthropic support, and Mayor Mike Duggan has committed $20 million to fund the first phase of construction, but more is needed.

A five-lane road with businesses on either side and two protected bike lanes to the right. The street is busy with cars, bikes, a bus, and pedestrians crossing the street.
Rendering of the new Grand River Avenue.
City of Detroit

Finish streetscaping projects

Major road work is underway that should greatly improve the walkability, bikeability, and accessibility of several commercial corridors around Detroit.

But in the meantime, these streetscaping projects have been a major disruption to local businesses. Owners on Livernois Avenue, Grand River Avenue, and Bagley Street have all expressed frustration with construction, but also optimism for the final result.

The sooner these projects finish, the better it will be for everybody.

Turn out for the 2020 Census

The census is one of the most important ways a city can access federal funds. Every completed census form is worth an estimated $1,800 in funding for programs like medicare, food assistance, head start, road repairs, more. And those rates are locked-in for a decade after the census is completed.

In other words, millions of dollars in federal funding are at stake depending on turnout for the 2020 Census. Dropping the “citizenship question” will go a long way to ensuring more people fill out the census. So will the city’s $3 million “Be Counted Detroit” campaign.

What would be on your Detroit holiday wish list? Let us know in the comments.

Little Caesars Arena

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