Detroit Regional Chamber > Mackinac Policy Conference > The Power of Place: Shaping Who We Are and Building Our Future

The Power of Place: Shaping Who We Are and Building Our Future

May 29, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Think of civic infrastructural improvements in the eyes of a child and those who will make the community thrive.
  • The timeline of progress comes in increments and will take decades to see results.
  • Reward the positivity of progress.

A shared sense of place, when harnessed by community leaders, becomes a powerful tool for building a unified future. By valuing the power of place, we can bridge divides and create a Michigan where diverse communities work together for a brighter future. In this session, hosted by The Kresge Foundation, community leaders shared the importance of their role in creative placemaking and reimagining our future.

Kicking off the conversation, the panel discussed their personal and deeper definitions of place and civic infrastructure. While the answers varied, a common theme was clear: communities that are able to build and distribute resources to be self-sustaining while having a strong sense of self are the ones that will thrive.

What is the Government’s Role in Building Place and Civic Infrastructure?

During the conversation, Jarrett and Perry discussed how the federal government fits into the process of building place and improving infrastructure. Having direct experience through the Obama Administration, Jarrett believed the federal government should lay the foundational groundwork and then let the local community and business leaders “do the work” to grow and maintain the progress.

“It’s not charity, it’s an investment, and you’re going to get a return on investment,” Jarrett said. “The lesson I learned on the ground is that do listen to the people [there] and don’t come in with your predispositions.”

What is the True Timeline of Progress and Attracting All to a Place?

Building Place and civil infrastructure does not happen overnight, but the true timeline of progress seems to vary among sectors and projects. In the Detroit Region, Lewis Jackson leaned into how The Kresge Foundation tries to define progress within their projects.

“The timeline comes in increments,” Lewis Jackson said. “We’re talking decades, and we have to be honest about it: change will not happen overnight, but we can have … benchmarks where residents can see progress.”

The panel also discussed various aspects of progress, with Goss specifically stressing the importance of redefining what a livable neighborhood means—and it is not always what previous generations or demographics defined it as.

“When a neighborhood becomes unattainable to live in, those neighborhoods will gentrify just because they look so bad. Really think about what it requires to change a neighborhood,” Goss said. “Our standard of excellence tends to be that white middle-class suburb [demographic], but there are a number of ways to create a neighborhood that feels connected and offers a number of amenities. There should be every opportunity to live [in Detroit] just like everywhere else.”

Focus and Advertise the Positives

In closing, the panel focused on the positives and what gives each of them hope or opportunities about the communities in Detroit and the Detroit Region. While the local leaders Goss and Lewis Jackson on the panel are inspired by building generational assets and holistic education strategies, the out-of-town panelists Jarrett and Perry shared the positive points of view from those outside the Region and encouraged the audience to be proud of our own accomplishments.

“Every time I come to Detroit, there’s such a focus on what’s wrong,” Perry said. “But if you don’t reward and acknowledge the people who are actually making the city better, you’re never going to get the investment to scale and codify.”

This session was sponsored by The Kresge Foundation.