How to Save a City – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

How to Save a City

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.

3 thoughts on “How to Save a City”

  1. Right, “meet people where they’re at” is a big thing. It can be hard for people to dream big and have real desires if they don’t have what they need at this time. Eventually, maybe a business building popping up a few miles away from their home could be useful. But, what if this person is at a point in their life where they just need to get food on the table? I still have much to learn about gentrification and the evolution of cities, but it sounds like if a person wanted a city that was highly efficient regardless, that person with power would meet others where they’re at so they could be led to “better” (or what that person thinks is better). 134.8 square miles – I’m on the edge of my seat thinking about what could come next.

  2. Raymond Ugaz-Carhuavilca

    Hey Abby,

    I find the same thing so infuriating. It’s so annoying to see that only a small portion of Detroit is “thriving” while everything else isn’t doing as well. I feel like everyone in every place should be having the same equal treatment. It’s definitely opened my eyes with working with non-profits too because I never noticed how unfair things could be until reading the book and realizing how much these non-profits do to give back to the communities in every way possible.

  3. Manar Aljebori

    Hi Abigail,
    I have never heard of the 7.2 before either. I think your analogy really captures everything about society, so little people are at the top but highlighted and so many people are at the bottom and ignored. The phrase you mentioned is great and something I think everyone should live by.

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