For me, one of the most powerful points in How to Kill a City, by Peter Moskowitz, was about the 7.2. I had never heard about it prior to reading this book, but the idea that of the 142 square miles in Detroit, only 7.2 square miles is “thriving” is infuriating. As I’ve come to better understand gentrification (the process where a poor urban area is changed by the influx of wealthy people and displacement of the current residents), I am noticing that such an injustice may not appear to be one on the outside.
I think that the 7.2 can serve as an analogy as to how our society operates. Urban revitalization doesn’t sound like a bad idea on paper, but when the focus becomes so narrow, marginalized groups go unintentionally unseen or intentionally ignored. It makes me think about the things society pursues and focuses on with the intention to do good and yet we may have missed those that need to be seen the most. And even with good intention, that is unjust. People shouldn’t get pushed to the peripheral, to the remaining “134.8 square miles.”
So, when I think about urban revitalization now, I think that there is a need to follow the example set by the non-profit I get to work with and all the non-profits I’m getting to learn about. And that is “to meet people where they are at” – I’ve heard this phrase used on many occasions in the short time I’ve had my internship. But I believe it is so important because it’s not all about just change and improvement, it’s about seeing people where they are right now, listening, and meeting their needs. I think that this is where true revitalization begins and how we can save a city.