Detroit on the Move

“We have an opportunity to teach other cities around the world how to build the city of the future.” This optimistic statement was offered by one community leader in Detroit, but the sentiment was shared by many at Move Detroit, 8 80 Cities’ one-week immersion program funded by the Knight Foundation and hosted locally by Jefferson East Inc. The program invites local residents, business owners, city staff and elected officials to take part in a series of discussions and workshops, all focused on how cities can create accessible mobility networks and vibrant public spaces with Gil Penalosa and 8 80 Cities.
Throughout the week, we heard much about the astounding opportunities that will define Detroit’s future. First is the abundance of space. Detroit’s extra-wide road network was built to accommodate one million people in an era when the car was king. This legacy has left rivers of asphalt throughout the city that could be converted into complete streets with wide sidewalks, separated bike lanes, and transit lanes, and still leave plenty of room for single occupancy vehicles. The second important opportunity is the energy, creativity, and optimism of Detroit residents. Local residents have stepped in to assume leadership roles by establishing community organizations, rehabilitating unused public spaces, and installing public art projects throughout the city, including the famous Heidelberg Project.

Everywhere we went, there were signs of struggle and blight, but also clear evidence of progress and hope. For example, Michigan’s first separated bike lane will soon be installed on Jefferson Avenue – in large part thanks to the tireless work of our hosts, Jefferson East Inc. Over five days, we met city officials and planners who were all eager to learn how they can apply the 8 80 City principles to Detroit. The optimism was also evident in the jam-packed audiences Gil presented to at public events throughout the city. Gil encouraged everyone to embrace Detroit’s unique opportunities and strive to become a great 22nd Century city now. The various city officials and local residents are poised to build on their growing list of achievements, and re-energized to make Detroit a model city of the future.

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