Detroit is a post post-apocalyptic city. Described that way by the recent cover article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, Detroit is finally on the mend. Read the New York Times piece by Ben Austen here: DETROIT / NYT. For many, The City of Detroit is an urban waste land. 139 square miles of blight and danger and ruin porn. Once upon a time, Detroit was considered a great city. Detroit was considered a world center for manufacturing and industry about 50 years ago, but the city has seen a steady decline since the race riots in 1967. 2/3's of Detroit's population has fled. The third that stayed...less than 700,000 people...is as tough as nails.
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In Wall Street vernacular, Detroit is experiencing a "dead cat bounce". Meaning...it can't get any worse, it can't fall any lower. Dan Gilbert and his Rock family of companies (Quicken Loans, Bedrock Real Estate, Detroit Venture Partners etc.) is leading the charge downtown. Gilbert and his affiliates have brought 12,500 workers downtown and controls over 8 million Sq Ft of real estate. Gilbert may be the biggest and highest profile believer in the resurgence of Detroit, but there are others.
For a growing number of residents and visitors, Detroit has become a living and working laboratory. A giant experiment. Very low barriers to entry have allowed a cadre of bright, young and idealistic folks to thrive. Artists, inventors, hackers, creators and makers are carving out a niche in the city. Detroit has developed a small but growing DIY (Do It Yourself) community. On the surface they look like any other group of urban hipsters...wild outfits, crazy facial hair, elaborate tatoos, "fixie" bikes, gobs of coffee. But in Detroit they are pioneers. They are forging the future of the region. They are literally taking the scraps that others have left behind and creating a world with no rules.
Enter Red Bull Creation 2014 hosted in Detroit. In it's 4th year #rbcreation staged a 72 hour creative competition that requires teams to innovate around a secret topic. RED BULL CREATION (click for info) gathered 7 teams composed of some of the best "makers" in the country. Using Detroit's RECYCLE HERE as a work space, the teams of 4 were given their topic "reinventing the wheel" along with a slew of power tools, a small budget and 3 days to create. They came up with some incredible fabrications. The $10,000 in prize money didn't hurt either.
The inventions were displayed at Detroit's Eastern Market on Saturday. The Eastern market itself has been serving Detroit since 1891. Taking top prize at RED BULL CREATION was the Maker Twins from Phoenix. Their moving garden, The GROW CYCLE was called a "veggie vending machine" by one of the twins. The maker twins built a ferris wheel of produce that employed an app to call up the desired product. The people's choice award went to Detroit's own i3 for their ROBO CROP, a robotic scarecrow.
It's very cool to see Detroit get up off the canvas, dust itself off and reinvent the wheel. Dan Gilbert may be leading the way...but plenty of smaller, not so well funded and less hyped groups are building momentum. In true Detroit style...the DIY movement is making its mark.
Bottom line. Detroit is on the upswing for the first time in over 40 years. Pockets of the City are actually thriving. Detroit still has a long way to go...but as the t-shirts say...Detroit Hustles Harder.
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