Good morning Detroit! I’m live from my family bunker up in the Northwest side of the city to give you my take on my experience here at CNU 24. I’m already regretting missing the first two days, plus time here early, considering I have a base here. Even though I’ve been here twice, being here as an adult, fully ensconced in the planning/placemaking world, is a world of difference.
Prior to my arrival, I was marveling at how all my colleagues were absorbing the different vistas and buildings and such. I also thought all the pictures of the inside of the Opera Hall were a bit gratuitous.
They were not. Seriously, this was a building well worth preserving and saving and the perfect home to have us all gather together. (And just imagine what it looks like in color. You’ll have to come see that for yourself).
Another honorable mention to the Gem Theater for providing us a lovely exhibit hall, registration table and plaza, the parking lot plaza in front of Opera House (Including the lovely fashion truck that provided me my second pair of sunglasses this trip) and Greektown! Lots of folks out, a security perimeter, but a vibrant environment. Plus, I love how there were so many places, like Five Guys, a bowling alley and of course lots of restaurants and bars open late.
Presentation wise, most of my time was spent yesterday at #janeday, supporting my mentor and colleague and friend Mitchell Silver in his first stage appearance at CNU! If that wasn’t enough, his New York colleagues Jannette Sadik-Khan and Jonathan Rose and Erin Barnes of ioby along with a handful of others, successfully brought the spirit of Jane up in the building and encouraged me to this (you know, write and speak) a bit more.
Speaking of speaking…
First of all, it was a pleasure to talk gentrification and debate it publicly with my colleague Eric Kronberg of Kronberg Wall in Atlanta. They are working to clean up true blight (fallen in homes, moldy homes, old school live works that are just waiting to be your next exposed brick masterpiece) and it was great having dinner with him and preparing for our debate. Oh and we won! Thanks friendly judges ;)!
If you missed it last night, you weren’t the only one, we had a technical issue. If I understand correctly, we will have audio of the debate and once I get that link, it will be here.
Here’s a summary of what I said last night and why, based on the statement and position on the screen above on the debate and my position. While displacement is part of ONE definition of gentrification, you know how I deal with words. And unfortunately, not only have we added and maintained forced displacement in the common, crowdsourced, definition, we’ve added pretty much every social ill. Gentrification is (sometimes) forced displacement of housing. Gentrification is sometimes physical and structural improvement of housing and commercial properties. Gentrification is assuming that people of higher luxury and class are going to buy and use your stuff. But class crosses race, gender and orientation. And class can change overnight. If we are going to attack social ills, then attach social ills by name. Income inequality. Racism. Sexism. Homophobia. Lack of transit and active mobility options. Lack of jobs and occupations of value. Lack of food. Bad food. Insularity of ideas.
And finally, always great to talk to my good friend and colleague Chuck Marohn and thankful for how much Strong Towns has grown and become a core group of colleagues and friends well outside the CNU fold. Likewise to all my APA, NARP and other internet and urbanist friends that are converged here this weekend.
Lastly, Your hugs have been awesome and a key reminder, that we start our placemaking with connection with the soul.
And actually lastly, I’m monitoring this morning’s Lean Urbanism talk via social, as I also really enjoying my mom (here for a visit and still holding down Greensboro) and aunt (the local Detroiter, 35 years now and counting via NC). I’ll then either be in one of the common areas or at the 11:15 session at the upstairs of the Detroit Beer Co. I have also tried to talk to as many of you as are here. The best thing to do is if you see me, walk up and say hi. Drop me your card if you have it. If I missed you, have no fear, I’m going to be doing a lot more traveling and conference attending this year, so I hope to catch you, maybe in your own place. And if you’re still here til the end of the day, there’s always the closing party!
I am @blackurbanist on Twitter and Instagram, responding most quickly on Twitter and doing most of my stream of consciousness and retweeting on Twitter on the #CNU24 hashtag.