July 19 2013

Should We Still Be Inviting Private Corporations to Redevelop Detroit?

GM Renaissance Center

Many revolutionary types in Detroit today will tell you that the City’s downfall was brought on largely by the influence corporate automakers have had historically over urban planning and policy. Even the 1987 film Robocop was a comment on corporate overreach and the preference for privatization in the city. You’d be hard-pressed to find an online news article about Detroit that doesn’t mention the Big Three automakers’ recovery from bankruptcy and the Great Recession as a force behind Detroit’s impending comeback.

Nobody’s denying the great successes Detroit’s automakers have won for the white American middle class family since the early twentieth century. But I am questioning whether we should still be focusing on what the Big Three and other large corporations can do for Detroit today. A symbol of failed corporate investment in the City is the General Motors Renaissance Center. The fortress-like facility was built in the aftermath of Detroit’s infamous 1967 rebellion with $300 million from Ford and was bought by General Motors in 1996 after decades of dismal return on investment. But here we are, after rescuing two of the Big Three from bankruptcy, with not much to show for it by way of jobs or money in Detroit.

Whole Foods, Detroit

The latest debate about corporate involvement in Detroit can be summed up by an exploration of the story on Whole Foods in Cass Corridor/Midtown. The City’s idea of sustainable development, unfortunately, still involves subsidizing large corporations to move into Detroit. The Wall Street Journal reports that $5.8 million of the new store’s price tag was financed by local and state grants – a sizeable chunk of money for a City that will inevitably file for bankruptcy. Along with the controversy over the subsidies necessary for Whole Foods to open its doors in Detroit comes a whole debate about food justice and gentrification in the City.

What impact have large corporations like Whole Foods had on your community?

Credits: Data linked to sources. Renaissance Center photograph by Kevin Chung. Whole Foods image linked to source.

Meg Mulhall

Meg Mulhall is an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan. She calls Kalamazoo, Michigan her hometown but is currently exploring community organizing and urban planning efforts in Ann Arbor and Detroit, Michigan. Planning to pursue a degree in either public policy or political science, Meg is interested in the relationship between government and non-governmental organizations and how those relationships can help remedy the lack of responsible and smart planning-related policies.

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This entry was posted on Friday, July 19th, 2013 at 9:54 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Government/Politics, Social/Demographics, Urban Development/Real Estate. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


3 Responses to “Should We Still Be Inviting Private Corporations to Redevelop Detroit?”

  1. Detroit’s Urban Agriculture Ordinance Inspires Changes to Vacant Lots | The GRID | Global Site Plans Says:

    […] Meanwhile, larger farms are bringing their harvest to farmers markets and even to Detroit’s first Whole Foods store. According to a recent report from the United States Department of Agriculture, the State of […]

  2. Attracting the Creative Class to Detroit’s Midtown: What About the Non-Creatives? | The GRID | Global Site Plans Says:

    […] see hip bakeries and coffee shops that have cropped up in recent years, and you can’t miss the Whole Foods store that opened its doors this […]

  3. A. Clifford Says:

    While a Whole Foods store is nice, in the area where I live it is not exactly what one would consider to be a huge draw that are found at other grocery stores in the are so that means less tax revenue, less jobs and less all the way around…It certainly seems that the government could have attracted a much better chain for the cost development and I am certain the huge incentives they had to promise Whole Foods…Almost makes on wonder who could be related to who, in order to get this deal done…LOL…sorry that wasnt right but it certain seems like the city could have done much better and produced many more jobs for that type of money….Sad they just dont get it, until the issues of unskilled workforce and blight are dealt with not may people and companies are going to want to take a chance on their success there….So maybe they need to do some Job Corp type projects and put the people there back to work instead of focusing on bringing in more….Just saying….Love, your articles….Have a wonderful day…

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