How to Kill a City, In Relation to My Site – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

How to Kill a City, In Relation to My Site

Reading How to Kill A City was highly informative for me, as it reinforced everything I’ve learned from previous classroom experience and research during my internship about gentrification in Detroit. Given that I work at a site that is an economic development initiative, How to Kill a City directly related to my work. As far as I know, none of the businesses that my site engages with are located in the midtown area, and through my own experience interviewing entrepreneurs I found that few people applied for loans due to fear of debt and fear of being denied due to personal credit. Additionally, in my research I learned that even though Black-owned businesses start at higher rates, they are more likely to fail due to lack of access to wealth and credit. These small businesses are struggling to start up in Detroit, and they have the potential to impact community wealth and local unemployment in great ways. Meanwhile, it is the multi-million dollar building and revitalization initiatives from individuals like Dan Gilbert who receive tax breaks from the city and are able to practically plan out how they will gentrify Detroit with no accountability. Virtually none of this investment is seen by the small business owners struggling outside of downtown and midtown, and these initiatives do not create jobs for native Detroiters. 

At the same time, How to Kill a City deeply complicated my understanding of gentrification. It became clear to me that there are many components in play that allow for gentrification to occur within a place, it’s not just a few wealthy individuals buying up cheap property—there are many other conditions that have created the perfect storm of what has occurred in Detroit. Lastly, while its true that for the most part large corporations like Quicken Loans are a detriment to small business in Detroit and creating community wealth, it’s also worth noting that these corporations do provide grants to organizations like my site, money that then goes toward lending for local entrepreneurs, and money that my site relies on as a nonprofit. Does this justify the disparity that billionaires like Dan Gilbert have contributed to in Detroit? Definitely not, but it is another complexity of gentrification to think about. After all, these grants are probably tiny in comparison to the money spent on gentrifying Detroit. Maybe there are ways to channel wealth from rich investors into the infrastructure and public health sectors of a city, or ways to ensure that local entrepreneurs see a greater portion of these investments—beyond the indirect benefit of a grant split many ways. 

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