Hey there and happy Tuesday!

If you want headlines around town, scroll on down. First, I need to clean up a little from last week.

My previous note got a ton of inbox responses, from kind words about being back behind the keyboard to some people getting upset I talked about certain things in New York City that are special — but if you read carefully, I said specifically that NYC and Detroit are different animals.

My hot take today about the city to learn from will probably get even more people upset because of collegiate rivalries.

But when I look at the data and mix that with personal experience, it’s Columbus, Ohio that is the bright spot to learn from in the midwest.

Before I went there a few times, I assumed Columbus (the city) was Ann Arbor part two. Football rivalry and all, college town of something over 120,000 people.

I was wrong.

Whether it’s the only downtown in the midwest to see an increase in traffic after the pandemic and fourth largest bump in the nation; their soaring population; or investments around their area — they’ve made the most of the last thirty years.

While the city of Detroit has dropped from about a million people in 1990 to 632,000; Columbus in 1990 had about 632,000 people and now has more than 900,000. It’s our reverse, and it’s worth the three hour drive to go down to interesting neighborhoods like Short North, German Village, Italian Village and more.

Now, I know some will say “they annexed land to get bigger!” but almost all of that wrapped up by 1980. That’s why I picked 1990 as my comparison point.

I’ll also remind everyone that the last time the city of Detroit had a population near what we have now (1910ish), the city of Detroit was far smaller in area and ended at roughly Highland Park, Fort Wayne and Belle Isle.

In my recent trips to Columbus, it hit different.

Some cities things feel way bigger in size or have infrastructure we just aren’t going to ever build (sorry, we will never have subways). Columbus, all of it you could see in Detroit and Metro Detroit — with a little planning, investment and working together. All attainable.

Place matters.

They demolished a dying mall to make a huge public park space (and tons of residential units popped up) called Columbus Commons. Imagine Campus Martius, but with housing AND offices around it. Saw a Sheryl Crow concert there last year.

During a recent presentation I attended by Michigan-based entrepreneurial success story Dug Song who sold his company Duo Security for more than two billion bucks (I was moderating a panel later in the day for MichAuto), he highlighted that Columbus was one of the areas to keep an eye on and one of the areas we’re directly competing with.

I already knew this to be true.

a street sign on a pole on a city street
Photo by Uche Chilaka on Unsplash

Columbus does well in that it leverages (The) Ohio State University for talent and new residents. Developers seem to value density. New buildings don’t seem to stick out as much.

As you hit the walkable streets, there was one apartment building in the Short North Arts District that fit into the older construction around it on the outside perfectly; so much so I was surprised to see it was built recently.

I thought back to the clashing developments in Detroit’s West Village over the last few years, where a key argument was the new buildings don’t match the rest of the area.

It’s true, some of them don’t. But they could have.

You can build new and keep a visual sense of place. It was in-my-face proof it can be done, and not everything new has to be a paneled pop-color box, or cheap-looking paneling — especially if neighbors want something that fits in.

They do a decent job of hiding freeways downtown, too. One is covered by restaurants and bars to not ruin the streetscape. Down the street it’s an easy jaunt to their North Market, open for nearly 150 years and open seven days as opposed to our Eastern Market — that although I love it, has limited real hours and days for the public due to limited demand.

It’s a shame that the University of Michigan moved to Ann Arbor after being founded in Detroit, because OSU along with other schools provide an engine of talent and young energy.

Ann Arbor is a fun visit and generally enjoyable place to live. But it’s a 45 minute drive away, not a ten minute Bus Rapid Transit ride or integrated into Detroit’s downtown.

Wayne State University has made a number of efforts and should be applauded  — but the school, even with recent work to build dorms — is still a commuter campus and seems to do the most that could be asked of it considering the size.

We have good things happening in our favor. Experience tells me that for clicks and attention, everyone’s going to pay attention to the first residential tower of District Detroit going up over the first base line of Comerica Park.

But keep your eyes up Woodward, on Grand River, and down Michigan.

Up Woodward (and a little west on Grand Boulevard), it’s my opinion what Michigan State University is doing with Henry Ford Health’s expansion will be very important long-term.

On Grand River, I think the new Detroit Center for Innovation from the University of Michigan is the key thing to watch around District Detroit. I’m also glad to see the planned programming widen.

Down Michigan, you simply can’t underestimate what’s happening at Michigan Central Station with Ford and the hundreds of associated companies that’ll be working around there. Also the work on Roosevelt Park work out front is amazing.

Three examples of stepping forward. There’s more happening, but I highlighted big and clear points everyone can understand.

I mentioned Columbus at a recent party and someone else said it right: Columbus is like a boss in a video game that you’re really mad at because they’re so good at being the enemy. You have to respect them.

We can still be mad at Ohio — and quietly take notes about the best parts to adapt and use ourselves.

p.s. - If you want food/drink recs for a trip, get in touch. I plan on going back and do some more in-depth work on it this year.

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📰 What to know

» The timeline of Wayne County’s new criminal justice complex has been delayed again. The project was expected to be completed by the end of this month. Not only will that date not be met, there’s no new one. [Bridge Detroit]

» Plans for a new Northville Downs in Plymouth are on hold. Township officials have requested several changes, including a redesign of the horse racing building and improvements to the east facade. The project with a half-mile racetrack would sit on 128 acres. [Hometown Life]

» Bikes and Coffee in Detroit’s Woodbridge neighborhood is closing. Citing rising rent and costs, the combination coffeeshop and bike repair place on Putnam closes May 14. [Bikes and Coffee]

» BrisaBar on the “beach” of Campus Martius Park in Downtown Detroit is back May 18. Expect tropical cocktails, food, and entertainment. They plan DJs, Sunday brunch, and free movie nights. BrisaBar will be open seven days a week for lunch, happy hour, and dinner. It’s owned by Elia Group. They have a couple other projects set to open this summer including Experience Zuzu and the Upstairs Bar. [BrisaBar]

» Speaking of Campus Martius, we’ll be at Hometown Tourist Day tomorrow (Wednesday) from 11a to 2p. Look for our shield and the podcast microphones and come say hello.

» Eagle-eyed listener Chris has noticed that construction has started on the new AC Marriott Hotel on Woodward. It will incorporate the Bonstelle Theatre as an event space. This was supposed to get going three years ago. [We can’t embed Tweets anymore so here’s a link]

» The suburb of Taylor is the latest to welcome recreational marijuana shops. They must be in designated industrial areas. Applications are open October 1. [News Herald]

🎧 On our daily podcast

» Where, exactly, in Detroit will the NFL draft be held? We discuss on the podcast as my Friday co-host has a pretty good idea that makes sense if you were here for the Super Bowl.

Wow. That Superb Owl 🦉 was 17 years ago and I remember it. Time flies.

» Keep up with the latest in development updates on our episode with Urbanize Detroit’s Robin Runyan.

» And Fletcher Sharpe doesn’t like any of the Pistons coaching options right now.

That’s it for today. Will write again soon. Remember that you are somebody — and I’ll see you around Detroit.


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