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Saturday, November 29, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 10/27/2002

Resurgency of Detroit impressive

Some items while wishing “fall back” didn't mean 5:36 p.m. sunsets (which is the case today):

DIFFERENT PATHS: I've always thought of Detroit as Toledo's big brother. If they were the same size, they could pass for Rust Belt twins.

At least they could have a few years ago.

Detroit has undergone a rather dramatic facelift and now bears little resemblance to its kid brother. Two state-of-the-art sports stadiums (Comerica Park for baseball; Ford Field for football) and one casino (Greektown) have pumped new life into downtown Detroit.

Earlier this month, my wife and I attended the first concert at Ford Field. More than 40,000 people showed up for the Rolling Stones. (Go ahead, insert your favorite “old” joke here.)

It wasn't until after the concert was over -- about 11:15 p.m. -- that I realized Detroit deserves more credit than I've given it through the years. The 10-block walk to our car was a real eye-opener. The sidewalks were packed and so were the streets. There was a Bourbon Street-like feel in the air.

While “Detroit” still has a negative connotation with me (and probably always will), it has done an impressive job of revitalizing its downtown -- which is the heart and soul of any community, big or small.

Toledo seems to have little interest in emulating its big brother. We matched Detroit with a baseball stadium, but that's it. (We could substitute a new sports arena for Ford Field and, say, a 24-screen movie complex for the casino.)

Some how, some way, Detroit's elected officials created a pro-development environment and, just as importantly, instilled a sense of urgency to the projects. Only once have I seen local politicians exhibit a sense of urgency: A downtown baseball stadium went from concept to reality in less than three years. Our politicians got the job done ... and, as feared, promptly rested on their laurels.

With the possible exception of an Insane Clown Posse concert, Toledo's streets are barren shortly after a downtown event. And that includes Mud Hens games. (Quick, name three downtown restaurants that are open at 10:30 p.m.)

Unquestionably, building a residential base is the key to revitalizing downtown Toledo. But entrepreneurs aren't going to open restaurants and shops until there are enough residents to support their ventures. Conversely, with relatively few retail establishments, people have no incentive to move downtown.

Which comes first, residential or retail? (And how do you develop one without the other?)

It's a chicken-or-the-egg question that Toledo's elected officials have shown no interest in answering. Their Detroit counterparts began working to solve the great mystery a few years ago.

So much for sibling rivalries.

TWIN PACK: Two slanted questions this week. As I reflect on the number of clocks that I reset last night before going to bed, I'm offering 14 points for each correct answer.

1) For someone who harshly criticized Bill Clinton's fund-raising, aren't you surprised that President Bush has spent so much time on the road rallying the (Republican) troops?

2) Considering that $672 million was spent on television political ads in 2000, isn't it a sad commentary on our political system that $1 billion will be spent this year?



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