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The City of Detroit - What Should Be Done About It?

Detroit CityThe city, as we have discussed it, is a "classic" anthology of answers people have devised to the question, What should we do? Not only that, the city is the preserved record of the results of those answers, from good to bad. We are still living with out successes as well as our mistakes.

Your assignment for this essay is to pick a specific instance where the city presents an answer to the question of what people should do. For example, consider Rybczynk's discussion of "city beautiful" planning, or Corbusier's "city of tomorrow," or the garden suburb. Those are all responces to the accumulated histroy and the accumulated historical problems represented by the city. They are instances where people have consciously used the city- or at least parts of it- to answers the question of what we ought to do.

Decide on the "answer" you want to investigate, and the find a site in Detroit that represents that answer. Your essay should then address the following points

- Specify the site you picked, and why you chose it.

- Carefully define the question being answered at your site.

- Relate that site in Detroit to what was going on nationally at the time, in terms of the histroy of city-making.

- Critically evaluate the Detroit example as a way of seeing answers to the question of what to do.

- Consider the ways in which differnt people and/or disciplines see the success or failure of an answers (ex City planners enthusiastically adopted COrbusier's ideas as the basas of urban renewal projects, but people forced into them ultimately rejected the projects as unlivable).

- Compare the quality of the local anser to the historical outcomes discussed by Rybczynski (or other authors you want to consider), relative to city-making overall. (Did other cites do a better answering questions than we did here in Detroit? How and why?).

- Ask yourself what lessons there are to be leanred for us now, and what we ought to do, based on the example you investigate.


The City of Ditroit, Michigan

Detroit is infamous for being one of the most crime-ridden cities in the United States of America. Because the city possesses such a dismal reputation with respect to safety, there is not much left for it other than a complete overhaul. Today, Detroit has great aspirations for becoming a city of intrigue... perhaps on a scale smaller than Las Vegas, but competitive with the Atlantic Cities and Indian Casino districts. This is just one of many developments taking place, but the scope of this paper will mostly focus on the MGM Grand Casino of Detroit and its impact on city life. Eventually, Detroit may be able to abandon its unsavory reputation for gang violence and become known as a vacation hotspot where senior citizens and high rollers alike can drink, gamble, and forget the problems of the 9-5 life.

Some may say that the casino represents the beginning of a new age. At the casino, there is a game for gamblers of all stripes. However, in any group of people, there are always a few that prefer some other kind of entertainment. As luck would have it, these people would also find plenty to do because there are fine restaurants, spas, shopping, and an active night scene to explore. The MGM Grand is also able to accommodate business meetings and small conferences, and is famous for providing top-notch entertainment for rock bottom prices. Perfect for individuals that desire quality without the huge price tag that often comes with it.

The Casino was the perfect subject for this paper because it represents a new era in Detroit. Although only a concept in 1996, it had drawn a great deal of attention from locals and tourists alike. Recently, an entertainment district began to spring up around the hotel. Because gambling is one of the more popular vices in the world, this casino is set to revitalize the Detroit economy - provided that the locals do not lose all their money at the table. All jokes aside, the casino may be the first step in Detroit's evolution into one of the more significant cultural centers in Michigan. Receiving tremendous support from the community at large, there is a great probability that this enterprise will allow Detroit to be seen as something other than Crime Central, USA.

The Detroit MGM Casino officially opened in 2007 as a subsidiary of a Las Vegas casino, MGM Mirage. This is one of the world's leading gaming companies with 17 properties located throughout the United States. They are a multi-billion dollar company with almost 50% interest in gaming that has been provided to the American Gaming Association's Code of Conduct. The casino also earned many industry awards, a reputation that facilitated its move to the Detroit area.

In 1996, there were several movements organized around the idea that casinos needed to move out of Las Vegas into other locations in order to exert a positive influence on local economy. Detroit, at the time, had one of the worst economies in the country as the manufacturing jobs in that area were moved overseas, thus property values were extremely low. Because it was a depressed area with high unemployment, officials believed a new casino would help in job creation. A second advantage is Detroit's proximity to Canada. Because gambling is as popular in Canada as it is elsewhere, capturing this market would be simple based on location. Ultimately, citizens agreed on Proposal E, which allowed three casinos to be built in Detroit. In time, more individuals in the community began to support the building of casinos, allowing for all three of the casinos to work towards opening their doors.

Because the competition was so fierce for casino contracts, Detroit quickly came on board with the plan. This was not surprising given the economic hardship the area suffered during the 1980s. However, the beginning of the end could be traced to the 1960s as industrial manufacturing was taken over by less expensive high-tech jobs. Many companies moved out of the area and there were massive layoffs. When people can no longer work to support themselves, it is not long before they turn to crime. Given the extremely large population of unemployed, its conversion from blue-collar city to stronghold of crime may have been inevitable. Eventually, its murder rate was among the highest in the United States.

Although there was a national recession, the people of Detroit sought to rebuild what they have lost. They built the Renaissance Center to bring the arts back to the city. Eventually, the people saw that the changes could become permanent if there was a steady source of income—and casinos were one of the more steady operations to manage. In sum, the MGM Grand was the answer to their prayers. Planners expected that the multi-billion dollar corporation would bring in large amounts of tourism as well as help to provide steady incomes and jobs for those working in town. Eventually, city planners finally gained the ability to restore performing art centers and landmarks in the town as well as downtown centers that were considered to be economically declining. Officials also predicted that Detroit would be able to stay in the financial up turn by providing entertainment from this casino, which allowed them to revitalize the sports teams of Detroit and to sponsor the 2005 Baseball All-Star Game as well as Super Bowl XL.

However, not everyone sees the casino as a symbol of success. Though recent contributions have been noted, some were skeptical about its long-term benefits. On one end of the spectrum are the successes that the casino has brought, despite its newness to the community, the first of which was an economic revitalization. Tourists from Michigan and Canada began to visit the city and pour money into its economy. The community also benefits from the reduction of the mob presence and the crime that comes with it. The easy access to jobs and money might be the reason why crime is decreasing in the area (Detroit Free Press, 2007).

While it is being said that the impact of the casino is generally positive on those who are living in Detroit, there are others who still see its construction as a failure on the part of the community. Those who are not in support of the building of the casino are factoring in long-term growth that may occur in the economy, along with concern for the moral integrity of the community. Some are worried that small area businesses would lose out as all the attention (and money) is poured into the casino. Beyond this, one faction believes that violent crime will once again increase as the links between violence and gambling are positively correlated. Some believe that this lull in the crime rate is only a temporary affair until the casino fully integrates into the community - then it is believed that crime will rebound once more, but with greater intensity (Moufakkir, 2007).

These specific issues, in relation to the concept of city making, present a variety of challenges in defining the development of Detroit. On one end, the city's development into a new Renaissance is fueling support for the casino in a positive manner. It is allowing those that live in the city to see that changes can be made and that Detroit’s identity as a crime haven is not eternal. The planning of this turn over, as well as the capacity to develop other areas at the same time, is one that is strategic among those in Detroit, including the ability to combine an aesthetic vision with the implementation of the new downtown area. When combining the new vision with the casino, it allows Detroit to have a centerpiece that invites outsiders, develops a new atmosphere, and creates an area in which there is a familiar feel of the casino specifically linked to the reputation that MGM Mirage has carried in Las Vegas for years.

The areas around the casino, such as the theaters and the artistic areas are the ones that have been revitalized. The casino only links to this in the concept of creating an Art Deco. At the same time, the casino capitalizes on familiar trade with the economy, including the ability to specialize in the invitation of the casino as a generalized area. By creating this as a capital intensive area, there is the ability to bring in more revenue and to balance out the familiar areas of Detroit that are only linked to the condition around the area, as well as the specialized areas (Henderson, 1991).

From what we have learned, there are several issues to consider. One of the major ideals to learn from this situation is linked to the development that takes place for politicians and economics as related to the development that takes place as a demand for the community members. Those in Detroit were desperate to re-build the city; however, the support for a casino came only as a solution to solving crime and the economy. Though the end result is not yet manifest, some believe that the casino will ultimately affect the community negatively in spite of the influx of tourist dollars. Secondly, Detroit is allowing for a casino to be the center of the downtown, rather than the historically significant areas that were recently revitalized. It is truly unfortunate that historical significance will be lost to the bright lights and slot machines. In order for this to change; however, there will need to be community support to create a different kind of change in Detroit. Although it is too soon to tell how the casino will affect Detroit, the debates on authenticity v. economic considerations will continue to rage on.


Cordiano, Joseph. (2005). Government of Ontario Invests in a Competitive Casino Windsor. Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Trade.

Detroit Free Press. (2007). A Gamble on Casinos Seems to Be Paying Off. McClathy - Tribune Information Services.

Henderson, J. Vernon. (1991). "Urban Development: Theory, Fact, and Illusion." Oxford University Press: USA.

MGM Mirage. (2007). MGM Grand Detroit: Where Business Meets Pleasure.

Moufakkir, Omar. (2007). Impact of Detroit's Casinos on the Local Community. Michigan State University.

Poremba, David Lee. (2003). “Detroit: A Motor City History.” Arcadia Publishing: New York.

Rybczynski, Witold. (1996). “City Life.” Scribner: New York.

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