December 07, 2022

20 things Detroit deserves: Our ideas for gifts for the Motor City

When it comes time for gift-giving, sometimes it helps to think of things the recipient actually needs. This holiday season, we got together and brainstormed a list of 20 things that we think Detroit could really use in 2023. Santa, if you’re reading this, maybe you can make some magic happen?
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A winning football team
Win or lose, Detroiters are going to cheer for the Lions. We watched Calvin Johnson and Barry Sanders lay it all on the turf and retire without championships of their own, and celebrated Ndamukong Suh and Matthew Stafford’s Super Bowl wins, despite both winning after leaving the team. In fact, the Lions haven’t won a championship since the 1950s. It would be nice to see the team we love so much bring a trophy home, and not just in an honorary way. —Alex Washington
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A winning football team

Win or lose, Detroiters are going to cheer for the Lions. We watched Calvin Johnson and Barry Sanders lay it all on the turf and retire without championships of their own, and celebrated Ndamukong Suh and Matthew Stafford’s Super Bowl wins, despite both winning after leaving the team. In fact, the Lions haven’t won a championship since the 1950s. It would be nice to see the team we love so much bring a trophy home, and not just in an honorary way. —Alex Washington
More grocery stores
Inflation on food products has been a hot topic, and point of concern, in recent months. But what’s worse than the rising cost of food is the lack of access to it. Earlier this year, WXYZ-TV reported that there are only 62 full-service grocery stores in the city, and many big-box stores are only available in the suburbs. It was also reported that about 30% of Detroit residents do not have a car, which means many are relying on unstable public transportation or friends to obtain basic necessities. (More on that in a minute.) While Target says it will build a store in Midtown in the coming years, and the Detroit People’s Food Co-Op is working to build a Black-owned grocery store in the North End, much more is needed. —Alex Washington
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More grocery stores

Inflation on food products has been a hot topic, and point of concern, in recent months. But what’s worse than the rising cost of food is the lack of access to it. Earlier this year, WXYZ-TV reported that there are only 62 full-service grocery stores in the city, and many big-box stores are only available in the suburbs. It was also reported that about 30% of Detroit residents do not have a car, which means many are relying on unstable public transportation or friends to obtain basic necessities. (More on that in a minute.) While Target says it will build a store in Midtown in the coming years, and the Detroit People’s Food Co-Op is working to build a Black-owned grocery store in the North End, much more is needed. —Alex Washington
Better public transportation
Most major cities have some form of reliable transportation. In Detroit, we’ve got buses that arrive seemingly whenever they feel like it, a streetcar that only runs about three miles from New Center to downtown, and a rusty old People Mover that feels like a low-budget roller coaster. The downtown area is not the center of the universe, and residents throughout the city need a reliable way of getting to work and school. Sure, Detroit is the Motor City, but not everyone who lives here has the luxury of owning their own set of wheels. —Randiah Camille Green
Steve Neavling

Better public transportation

Most major cities have some form of reliable transportation. In Detroit, we’ve got buses that arrive seemingly whenever they feel like it, a streetcar that only runs about three miles from New Center to downtown, and a rusty old People Mover that feels like a low-budget roller coaster. The downtown area is not the center of the universe, and residents throughout the city need a reliable way of getting to work and school. Sure, Detroit is the Motor City, but not everyone who lives here has the luxury of owning their own set of wheels. —Randiah Camille Green
Cheaper parking downtown
That said, parking in Detroit sucks — there’s no way around it. Planning for a nice evening on the town shouldn’t include budgeting an extra $50 to park to go to an event. It would also help if parking areas were more clearly marked, because not everyone loves to play the “will I come back to a ticket or a tow?” game at the end of the night. —Alex Washington
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Cheaper parking downtown

That said, parking in Detroit sucks — there’s no way around it. Planning for a nice evening on the town shouldn’t include budgeting an extra $50 to park to go to an event. It would also help if parking areas were more clearly marked, because not everyone loves to play the “will I come back to a ticket or a tow?” game at the end of the night. —Alex Washington
Actual affordable housing
Apartment hunting in Detroit is like walking a tightrope, with trendy $2,000 lofts on one side and “recently renovated” flats for $1,200 surrounded by abandoned houses on the other. On top of high rent costs, Detroit is plagued by slum landlords who leave tenants in unlivable situations with frequent water shutoffs, busted boilers, and ongoing repairs in so-called historic buildings they’ve failed to bring up to modern standards. —Randiah Camille Green
Lee DeVito

Actual affordable housing

Apartment hunting in Detroit is like walking a tightrope, with trendy $2,000 lofts on one side and “recently renovated” flats for $1,200 surrounded by abandoned houses on the other. On top of high rent costs, Detroit is plagued by slum landlords who leave tenants in unlivable situations with frequent water shutoffs, busted boilers, and ongoing repairs in so-called historic buildings they’ve failed to bring up to modern standards. —Randiah Camille Green
A foreclosure moratorium
Every year, thousands of low-income Detroiters lose their homes to tax foreclosures. Seized homes often sit vacant until they are stripped by scrappers, leaving neighborhoods with abandoned eyesores. It doesn’t help that Detroit admitted that it had illegally overtaxed as many as 100,000 residents by inflating property assessments. —Steve Neavling
Lee DeVito

A foreclosure moratorium

Every year, thousands of low-income Detroiters lose their homes to tax foreclosures. Seized homes often sit vacant until they are stripped by scrappers, leaving neighborhoods with abandoned eyesores. It doesn’t help that Detroit admitted that it had illegally overtaxed as many as 100,000 residents by inflating property assessments. —Steve Neavling
More homeowners
We got some good news earlier this year — for the first time in a decade Detroit has more homeowners than renters, with 51.3% of homes in the city owner-occupied, according to the latest Census, compared to 47.8% in 2019. That’s a welcome return to the past, when Detroit once had a uniquely high rate of homeownership among U.S. cities. However, the findings also showed a decline in Black homeownership, and the Detroit Land Bank is sitting on about 63,000 vacant lots and about 13,500 vacant structures. —Lee DeVito
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More homeowners

We got some good news earlier this year — for the first time in a decade Detroit has more homeowners than renters, with 51.3% of homes in the city owner-occupied, according to the latest Census, compared to 47.8% in 2019. That’s a welcome return to the past, when Detroit once had a uniquely high rate of homeownership among U.S. cities. However, the findings also showed a decline in Black homeownership, and the Detroit Land Bank is sitting on about 63,000 vacant lots and about 13,500 vacant structures. —Lee DeVito
People
More bad news from the Census — Detroit continues its 70-year population decline, with 639,111 residents recorded in 2020, down from its peak of nearly 2 million residents in 1950, and much of the drop coming from the loss of Black residents. The decline in population means a loss of tax base and federal funds. Mayor Mike Duggan, U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and others have challenged these findings, arguing that the Census counting method was flawed, but the fact remains that Detroit has plenty of room to grow. —Lee DeVito
Shutterstock

People

More bad news from the Census — Detroit continues its 70-year population decline, with 639,111 residents recorded in 2020, down from its peak of nearly 2 million residents in 1950, and much of the drop coming from the loss of Black residents. The decline in population means a loss of tax base and federal funds. Mayor Mike Duggan, U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and others have challenged these findings, arguing that the Census counting method was flawed, but the fact remains that Detroit has plenty of room to grow. —Lee DeVito
More public schools
Over the past two decades, about 200 public schools in Detroit have been closed, and enrollment has dropped from more than 162,000 students to nearly 49,000 students today. The state has fueled the decline by reducing funding, closing schools, and allowing charter schools to spring up. With more than half of Detroiters living in poverty, quality public education is as important as ever. —Steve Neavling
Thomas Hawk, Flickr Creative Commons

More public schools

Over the past two decades, about 200 public schools in Detroit have been closed, and enrollment has dropped from more than 162,000 students to nearly 49,000 students today. The state has fueled the decline by reducing funding, closing schools, and allowing charter schools to spring up. With more than half of Detroiters living in poverty, quality public education is as important as ever. —Steve Neavling