It is now three days after Super Bowl XLV (or the Glee Pre-show) which has given me ample to time to determine my favorite commercial. Initially it was a three way tie between the Volkswagen Star Wars ad, the Finger-Licking Doritos, and the Chrysler 200 spot featuring Eminem. Today I am no longer on the fence and will officially declare my winner as Chrysler. Why? The two-minute ad (in my opinion) managed to capture the rich history of Detroit and its people, their recent struggles, and current opportunity before them to rise again.
As a landscape architect / urban designer, Detroit is a fascinating case study. In 1950 it was the fifth largest city in the country with a variety of neighborhood types and dense urban center. Consolidation of the automobile industry during that decade and increased competition for jobs signaled the beginning of a population decline that today is half of what it was at its peak.
What you read and hear in the news these days about Detroit isn’t positive. Hit especially hard by the recent economic downturn, in 2009 residential lot vacancy in Detroit was 27.8%, up from 10.3% in 2000. The population continues to shrink and foreclosures magnify the problem. An estimated 20 to 30 percent of lots are vacant. In 2010, the city began using federal funds on its quest to demolish 10,000 empty residential structures. (Info from Detroit Parcel Survey)
That being said, Detroit is a resilient city evidenced by the numerous creative solutions to help turn the city around… including turning the vacant lots in land for urban agriculture. Detroit Urban Design is a blog devoted to the possibilities of this place… challenging us to look at Detroit in a new way (much like the Chrysler commercial).
Maybe I just love an underdog story, but I believe the passion of its people and the history of the place have positioned Detroit for a great next act.
(Photo credit: A Town Square )