The District Detroit: The city of today, tomorrow!

Mar 3, 2015 at 2:57 pm
Are you young, interested in city life, walkability, and a dynamic neighborhood that doesn't sleep? 

Have we got a marketing campaign for you!

Or that would seem to be the message behind a certain website, which has been fleshed out over the last month. We're talking about the online push to market the ominously named "The District Detroit." No, it's not a new Luc Besson movie; it's actually a set of five neighborhoods. One of them is Cass Park Village, a neighborhood that is vibrant, exciting, and just what today's millennials want. The only problem seems to be that it doesn't really exist yet.

Which makes for some amusing, head-turning moments when you put the crisp advertising copy up against Google Street Views of the hood. Let's take a look:

I know the tour was awfully brief, but … can you feel the energy? 

The website is an unholy mess of marketing buzzwords that have the millennial cohort firmly in their crosshairs. It’s walkable, livable, mixed-use, and world-class. The only thing is that it doesn’t really exist yet. But it will be built from the ground up!

But don’t millennials actually prefer neighborhoods that grew over time, as the result of millions of individual decisions? Don’t they seek that organic nature over the contrived conceits of today’s slap-it-up building contractors?

Not to worry, millennials. This whole plan may be contrived, yes, but it’s “inspired by historical roots, beloved places or geographical highlights within each area.” So there.

Besides, “each neighborhood will have its own distinct personality, expressed by the following working names.” Yes, it actually reads that way. [And note well how this prose even leaves itself a loophole in case somebody comes up with a better name down the line.]

At the heart of it all will be You Paid For It Arena, of course. “The new arena will anchor one of the five neighborhoods in The District. It will serve not only as a powerful, continual generator of activity, but also as a good urban neighbor.”

See? That temple to public subsidy doesn’t generate traffic, crowds, pollution, or noise. It generates “activity.” Wheee!

Frankly, it has been a while since we've seen such an audacious bit of marketing here. Not only are the marketers selling something that doesn't exist yet, they're selling something that may not exist at all. Outside of these broad and vague ideas, and an understandable desire by the Ilitch organization for developers to break down his door with plans, nobody really knows what this place will look like in 10 or 20 years, do they? All this "The District Detroit" represents is a marketing contract and some broadly hip ideas designed to appeal to a generation that could be old enough to retire by the time this project is off the ground for all we know. 

As you read on through this website, you're bound to feel a certain admiration for the person or people writing this copy. As writing out of one's ass goes, this is some of the brassiest, the cheekiest. It may be the most joyfully unfounded sales pitch ever. At least when you sell "orange groves" in the desert, you know that the people sending their hard-earned dollars simply can't see that you're full of it. With Google Street Maps, you can see it all right away. Which is what makes us marvel at statements like this, as though seen through some crystal ball: 

Cass Park Village will be home to independent shops, local markets and galleries, and residents will sense a relaxed atmosphere with a free-spirited attitude that is not pretentious or flashy. Like a small town, this close-knit community will encourage people to get to know each other. The daytime atmosphere will be friendly as shop owners and cafe start-ups welcome visitors, offering conversations about neighborhood happenings and current events in comfortable and casual surroundings. Nighttime will be equally laid-back as neighbors meet in the backyard for informal get-togethers or at the park for pickup softball. For those seeking something a bit livelier, local bars and galleries will come alive, offering events from poetry slams to local garage bands to full-out launch parties.