It’s been a couple of weeks since I was in Detroit for the Powering Progress Together and Eco Marathon events, and it’s interesting to think back on my impressions of the city. My first impression was that the city’s current state is pretty depressing. This comes, in part, with my new understanding of how the city was once considered one of the world’s grandest and most innovative metropolises, but now the city was a shadow of its former glorious self.
But there is another way to look at this city. After spending a couple of weeks away from Detroit, my thoughts changed from being depressed about the city to being hopeful and excited about the city’s future prospects. This is due to the fact that this city is being forced to reinvent itself as a 21st century city. They are able to reimagine and execute their open spaces and explore different ways to use their existing architecture.
Above all that, the most exciting part of Detroit forced reinvention of itself is the idea that it can rethink the way the city creates and uses energy. To me, the possibilities are endless. You can start with rooftop solar and creating more efficient buildings. Both of these initiatives are low hanging fruit and should be fairly easy to implement.
The real innovation can occur when you look at the transportation system and how you rebuild it. Beyond the light rail system they have, the group of innovators at Powering Progress Together discussed everything from adding bike lanes to laying down special road material that actually captured energy from the friction of movement on top of it. Pretty amazing stuff.
In the end, Detroit is definitely the tale of two cities. Through on lens, Detroit is probably the largest urban failure this country has ever seen. But through the other lens, this city could be the shining model of the new metropolis, and show us all how cities grow and thrive and, most of all, how the new American urban landscape helps lead us in the creation of the clean energy future.