|Jeanette Pierce stands on an outside balcony in the high-rise apartment building she lives in downtown |
Detroit, Michigan on October 16, 2012.
Credit: REUTERS/Rebecca Cook
When Jeanette Pierce moved into a downtown Detroit high-rise seven years ago, she could always count on getting into The Well, a local bar with wood-paneled walls, dartboards and an X-Box in the corner. Now she can barely squeeze in.
"There could be a line with as many as 150 to 175 people at the bar," said Pierce, 31, co-founder of a nonprofit that promotes Detroit. She's wistful for the nights when just 50 patrons would show up.
Pierce's neighborhood is an example of the renaissance and growth seen in a handful of areas in Detroit, a city whose overall fortunes and population have tumbled, especially in the last decade with the contraction of the American auto industry.
City officials and business leaders, who bristle over media fixation on crime and budget misery, are hoping to turn attention to Detroit's green shoots: bustling restaurants, community gardens and long waiting lists for apartments.
Last month the nonprofit Detroit Regional News Hub, which connects journalists to people and organizations involved in rebuilding the city, held a promotional day-and-a-half event. "Transformation Detroit" featured talks by city officials, including Mayor Dave Bing, business owners, real estate developers and others invested in the city's recovery.
Among them was Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, which recently finished moving 3,400 employees who had been based in the suburb of Southfield to a complex of five buildings huddled near the Detroit River.
The city is also home to 1,400 gardens tended by 15,000 to 20,000 mostly volunteer gardeners, said Rebecca Salminen Witt, president of the Greening of Detroit. The 23-year-old nonprofit agency seeks to reclaim open spaces and restore the local ecosystem through tree planting and urban agriculture. The produce - 200 tons are harvested each year - is distributed to the community and sold at neighborhood farmers' markets in Detroit, and the income is plowed back into the collaborative.
The event was partly sponsored by the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, a nonprofit whose board is appointed by city officials.
"We have to create the kind of environment to make people stay," Bing, a Democrat elected three years ago, told reporters. "We're well on our way to doing that."
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