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Detroit revitalization efforts to customize city services based on specific neighborhood needs

Monday, August 01, 2011 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: Detroit, neighborhoods, health news

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(NaturalNews) The tattered automobile industry, a shrinking population, and continued nationwide economic turmoil, have all contributed to the demise of Detroit, Mich., which has left the city with no choice but to come up with a unique and strategic plan to help save it. According to a recent report by CNBC, Detroit's Mayor Dave Bing announced that his city will begin portioning out specific city services to neighborhoods based on their determined classification as "steady," "transitional," or "distressed."

With very limited resources, there simply is not enough to go around anymore. Detroit's population has plummeted by roughly 200,000 people since 2001, and by over one million since 1950. And with many neighborhoods in serious decline or complete decay, city officials say that resources will have to be reapportioned, depending on individual neighborhoods' most pertinent needs.

"Our focus is going to be on the people in the neighborhoods. We can effect [sic] real change and improve neighborhoods," Mayor Bing is quoted as saying by CNBC. "We will not force anybody to move. We want people to move into the areas that are going to grow; where we have the amenities, the density."

Part of the problem is that Detroit's 139 square miles have become a patchwork of urban decay with some steady and even thriving neighborhoods scattered in between. Because the overall economy and population of the city has declined while the city's actual geographical size has remained the same, it is simply no longer possible for the full gamut of city services to be provided in full to every single area.

According to the plan, which is part of Mayor Bing's "Detroit Works Project," neighborhoods categorized as "steady," meaning they have homes in good condition that currently rank highest in value, will receive services focused more on things like tree trimming, code enforcement, public lighting, and business attraction.

"Transitional" neighborhoods, which represent those that still have some life to them but contain a mix of both rental and owner-occupied homes, will get services tailored to road improvement, water and sewer repair, and boarding up and demolition of decaying or abandoned homes and structures.

"Distressed" neighborhoods, which are the ones most commonly seen on national news that are in serious disrepair, with many vacant and decaying homes and structures, will receive services focused primarily on demolition and cleanup, as well as long-term projects aimed at improving recreational facilities and access.

At the same time, Mayor Bing has stressed that all neighborhoods will receive equal coverage of vital services like fire, police, and emergency medical. But beyond that, only those services deemed most appropriate to a neighborhood will be provided.

No neighborhoods will actually be shut down as part of the plan, however, which was a proposition that many Detroiters had suggested as a more preferable option. By shutting down the worst and most decimated Detroit neighborhoods, and ending all their services, the city would have instead been more able to provide a complete package of city services to neighborhoods in better shape, they claimed.

Whole Foods Market to build store in Midtown Detroit, will be city's only national grocery chain

Despite the potential shortcomings of the plan, efforts to revitalize Detroit are actually having a very positive and real impact, at least in certain areas. Midtown, for instance, which is anchored by the Detroit Medical Center, Wayne State University, and the Henry Ford Health System, has seen an influx of new residents, as well as a growing retail segment.

Quicken Loans and four other employers, including Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Michigan, are now offering an incentive program to 16,000 employees working for Detroit-based companies to move into or near the city's downtown area. And this $4 million target program is already having a considerable impact on restoring the health and vitality of Detroit's inner core.

"This is all real," said Daniel J. Loepp, president and chief executive of BCBS, to CNBC. "This isn't all rhetoric. It's action. I can sense in talking to people that people sense that, too."

At the same time, Whole Foods Market has announced that it is opening its very first store in Detroit's Midtown in 2013. It will be 20,000 square feet in size, employ 75 people, and ultimately represent the only national grocery chain within Detroit's city limits. The presence of a Whole Foods in any neighborhood, of course, is big news because the company is very selective about where it places its stores -- and it obviously sees incredible potential and positive momentum in Detroit.

"We have cultivated relationships with Michigan growers and we want to expand that to Detroit growers," said Whole Foods executive operations coordinator Red Elk Banks to the Associated Press. "We feel this is the right time for us to make the jump into Detroit. It's the focus on the food economy that has driven us to select Detroit. We feel Detroit deserves the best that Whole Foods has to offer."

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