Urban Innovation

Making the Most of Motor City

December 15, 2018  • Institute Staff

The Institute along with The Atlantic and Bloomberg Philanthropies hosted the sixth annual CityLab: Urban Solutions to Global Challenges, a forum to highlight innovative urban strategies and leadership. Previously held in New York, Los Angeles, London, Miami, and Paris, the event brought to Detroit a group of 34 mayors and more than 600 participants from over 150 cities around the world for the two-day summit.

CityLab used Detroit’s ongoing comeback story to guide the program. “We’ve gone from 1.8 million to 700,000 people,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said. “This trend you’re seeing around the world of young people moving to urban areas is hitting us in a different way.”

CityLab 2018 looked at policy-driven solutions for creating inclusive economies, building citizen engagement in the digital age, promoting the arts for vibrant communities, ensuring urban accessibility, combating the opioid crisis, serving border communities, and curbing gun violence. Attendees also explored every corner of the city: the Eastern Market District, where they heard from local food entrepreneurs about Detroit’s thriving culinary start-up scene; the Real-Time Crime Center, where local businesses partner with the police to promote safety; the Fitzgerald Neighborhood, which is turning vacant areas into community assets; Michigan Central Station, where developers are making new plans for the once-abandoned train station; and the Livernois corridor, where small businesses are creating economic revitalization. Participants also attended a special reception at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, where performance artists wove their way through the crowds. Finally, the CityLab group toured two of Detroit’s most sought-after project sites, the Tiny Homes Neighborhood and the Empowerment Plan, both of which target Detroit’s homeless and vulnerable populations and offer them access to home ownership and employment services.

Detroit artist jessica Care moore described the role of art and artists in city-building: “As we develop new cities and revitalize cities, if you do it without the artists who represent the heartbeat, the soul of the city, then you’re doing a disservice to the city.” Care moore performed a couple of powerful poems celebrating Detroiters. “We know the value of who we are, so it’s just about the city stepping up and celebrating that so the world would know.”