Community meetings about the future of Detroit neighborhoods wrap up this week.
The Detroit Works Project focuses on how to make neighborhoods more viable, and how to keep current residents while attracting new people to the city.
Dan Pitera is co-leader of Civic Engagement for Detroit Works long-term planning. He is also also a professor of architecture at the University of Detroit-Mercy.
Some main concerns from Detroit residents, Pitera said “are safety for everybody, education and health for everybody in the city.”
Detroit Works has used several methods to engage the Detroit community. One of the newest is an online video game called Detroit 24/7. “Some people love to go to meetings, other people don’t,” Pitera said.
So far more than 900 people are playing the game, which lets players describe what they encounter everyday as they move around the city of Detroit, point out the pros and cons, and then suggest strategies that can improve the city. The idea is to engage a younger population, those ages 18 to 35.
“It actually deals with many of the same issues we are dealing with in the community conversations but done online, and we are attracting those people that are not going to meetings.”
According to Pitera, the intention of the project has been to first collect data from city residents, and then create city wide strategies that are informed by what is happening in different neighborhoods.
Pitera said that the new consent agreement between Detroit and the state has impacted residents, because “there is a fear that the work that we are doing that is looking toward the future could be compromised by decisions that are happening today. The decision that we are making for the long-term can help drive us beyond the short-term decisions."
The project got off to a bit of a bumpy start and recent reports say Mayor Bing’s office has already identified certain city neighborhoods as distressed and has started plans to direct more resources towards more stable neighborhoods, which apparently blindsided organizers and participants.
Pitera said, the Detroit Works effort is one of kind, and added "no other city has attempted to do what we are doing now, and that work means we will have success, but we will also have things that are no so successful. In terms of the analogy of the dance, we'll sometimes be in sync, and sometimes we'll step on each other's toes, still trying to figure out how we need it is that we need to operate."