Is Detroit the Next Brooklyn?

Posted on August 19, 2011

NPR recently wondered if Detroit will become the next Brooklyn. the radio piece itself does not address that comparison directly. But insofar as Brooklyn is a euphemism for formerly bad place getting less bad. Host Michel Martin discusses the city’s changes with Margarita Barry, a Detroit native and founder of, and Scott Harrison, who relocated to the city for work:

BARRY: So definitely there’s this negative perception about Detroit and how we live and, you know, what it’s like to live here.

MARTIN: But how is it different now? Or is it different now?

BARRY: I guess it depends on, you know, the individual. I would say certain pockets and certain areas of Detroit have certainly become more vibrant. In particular, the midtown area. That’s where you’ll see a lot of young people moving to a lot of activity. A lot of young creatives and a lot of entrepreneurs kind of popping up with businesses and just making it a more — it just seems like there’s a renaissance going on in the greater downtown area.

Not so fast, says the New York Times. No way Detroit is the next Brooklyn. No, no, no. It’s much more like the next … TriBeCa:

With these new residents have come the trappings of a thriving youth culture: trendy bars and restaurants that have brought pedestrians back to once-empty streets. …

Those familiar with past neighborhoods-of-the-moment recognize the mood. “It feels like TriBeCa back in the early days, before double strollers, sidewalk cafes and Whole Foods,” said Amy Moore, 50, a film producer working on three Detroit projects. “There is a buzz here that is real, and the kids drip with talent and commitment, and aren’t spoiled.”

Wrong again, writes Forbes, which recently put Detroit on the cover of its “Best Places for Business” list. Detroit is neither the next Brooklyn nor the next TriBeCa. It’s the next … “land of opportunity”:

The barriers to entry for business are fairly low, and getting lower. Real estate is cheap, there’s an abundance of skilled workers seeking jobs, and the business tax structure has improved dramatically under new Gov. Rick Snyder. …

… Dan Gilbert, chairman of online mortgage company Quicken Loans, is so bullish on the city he not only moved his company’s headquarters downtown from the suburbs, he’s buying up downtown office buildings left and right and filling them with new tenants with the aim of creating a digital hub in downtown Detroit. “There’s the smell of something special happening,” Gilbert told me. “Detroit’s going to be a big story here in the next several years for America, and I think (businesses should) want to be part of it.”

So there you have it. Detroit is no longer a city. If it’s lucky it will be the next borough of a city. Or the next neighborhood of a borough. Or the next United States of America.