Thursday, November 04, 2004

It's Time to Start Becoming Believers Again

The implosion of the Hudson's building in downtown Detroit over six years ago was a difficult thing for many metro-Detroiters to handle. The building, which is said to have brought people from all around the city to its doors, symbolized one of the last memories of "old Detroit"; the one that was bustling with people, young and old, and was "the place to be". Following the demolition of the Hudson's building, many of the last supporters of Detroit finally began to agree with what their suburban counterparts had been saying for years: the city was in chaos and was not coming back. Finally giving in to defeat, many packed their bags and exited Detroit, following in the footsteps of the masses before them.

What they didn't know, however - or, perhaps, didn't have the energy to believe - was that a small redevelopment effort was about to get under way. Talks to woo the tech giant, Compuware, to relocate its headquarters from the Detroit suburb Farmington Hills into the city, were looking up. Then-mayor Dennis Archer was brainstorming with urban planners and designers about ways to utilize historic Campus Martius to create a centralized area in the downtown area that was pedestrian friendly, well laid-out, and took advantage of the intersection where five different blocks collided. The Detroit 300 Conservancy, headed by Edsel B. Ford II, was pushing for use of the organization's funds to revamp the area, and hoping that a strong vision and carefully-selected design team would assist in creating a new haven for Detroiters to gather in.

By 2002, the deal with Compuware had been sealed - the Fortune 500 company would be moving to Detroit. Cheers were heard across metro Detroit, although many people pessimistically rejected the announcement, saying, "I'll believe it when I see it." And, of course, they did become believers; Compuware moved its 4,000 employees to the new building in 2003. Shortly after, rumors about a Detroit Hard Rock Cafe and Borders bookstore started flying and, again, the same people said, "I'll believe it when I see it." And, of course, they do believe it now; both Hard Rock Cafe and Borders opened in November 2003. A month later, Kinko's announced a new store for itself in downtown Detroit. And guess what the majority of metro Detroiters said? I'll believe it when I see it. And, again, they are believers now, because Kinko's opened in 2004.

With the spectacular Campus Martius park set to open downtown in just a few weeks, I know the pessimists out there are still thinking that negative thought, I'll believe it when I see it." And, guess what? You will believe it on November 19.