Detroit's Future: Fair to Midland

Midland doesn’t possess the allure of Charlevoix or Bay Harbor, yet it’s arguably the most prosperous small city in Michigan.


Midland doesn’t possess the allure of Charlevoix or Bay Harbor, yet it’s arguably the most prosperous small city in Michigan. For starters, real estate values in Midland have held their own in recent years, while home prices have slipped nearly everywhere else — including in such desirable locales as Birmingham, the Grosse Pointes, and Bloomfield Hills.

Sure, Ann Arbor is larger, and is home to the University of Michigan, but it’s a college town that spills over with activity from fall to spring and quiets down during the summer months. The same goes for East Lansing, home to Michigan State University. Not many people vacation in either city, I suspect. Midland, meanwhile, draws its share of vacationers year-round.

One sign that Midland has more going for it than most cities its size — population of around 41,000 — is discernable from the air. When Alden B. Dow, the architect and son of Herbert B. Dow, the founder of Dow Chemical Co., designed Northwood University’s campus, he bisected the S-shaped main road with a linear walking mall. The resulting image is that of a dollar sign.

Need more evidence? There’s an abundance of homes and structures designed in the Prairie School of architecture, which was the style most favored by Dow and famed designer Frank Lloyd Wright. The downtown district has few vacancies, the result of a prosperous residential base that is mostly employed by Dow Chemical and its surrounding affiliates like Dow Corning, Dow Roofing Systems, Dow AgroSciences, Dow Kokam, and Hemlock Semiconductor Corp.

The university, which offers undergraduate and graduate programs to some 2,300 students (the school operates several campuses around the world), caters to entrepreneurs, the sons and daughters of small business owners (especially automotive dealers), and foreign students lured by the prospect of learning every nuance they can about the American Dream.

The Midland Country Club just received a multimillion-dollar makeover and addition. As a result, the clubhouse is larger than the historic edifice at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township, and is complemented by a separate, state-of-the-art swimming complex.

So what’s the message for Detroit and other cities struggling to reverse years of decline? Embrace and engage the business community. Cater to workers by offering safe and attractive housing. Provide a first-class education system, and lure top scholars from around the country and the world.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is on the right path, and the stars are starting to align with his vision of restoring a world-class city. The Big Three automakers and their suppliers are no longer burdened by huge legacy costs, and they are profitable. A critical mass of high-tech companies in the downtown district should be tapped for support, as well.

By drawing as much investment and interest from the corporate community as possible, and by doing most of the little things right, Detroit can prosper. The city can’t sit back and expect to be catered to. Rather, Detroit needs to set the table, pull out the chair, and prepare to deliver a memorable experience. db




Edit Module
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Solutions Factory

Detroit served as the birthplace of the modern assembly line in 1908.

A Clean Sheet

Where is it written that an elected school board is required to operate one or any number of public schools?

The Last Mile

Public transportation in metro Detroit hasn't been much to write home about. Without a car, it's tough to find reliable, affordable transportation to shop, work, and play.

Somerset Detroit

Soon, downtown Detroit will have its own version of The Somerset Collection in Troy.

Inside Out

As a director at the Cranbrook Educational Community in Bloomfield Hills, Mike Stafford says the 319-acre art and educational campus isn’t limited by its physical boundaries.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Downtown Detroit’s Historic Beaubien House Sold
    The historic Beaubien House in downtown Detroit, previously owned and occupied by the American...
  2. Somerset Collection's Holiday Popup CityLoft Opens Next Week; The Detroit Shoppe Relocates
    Somerset Collection's CityLoft, a holiday popup shop with more than 30 retailers, will open next...
  3. Trinity Health to Invest $80M in Community Health Preventative Programs
    Livonia-based Trinity Health will invest $80 million over the next five years in grants and...
  4. Robotic Butler Delivers Amenities to Guests at Detroit’s Aloft Hotel
    A robotic butler named Botlr — capable of assisting hotel staff in delivering amenities from...
  5. U-M Forecast: U.S. Economy to Grow at Highest Rate Since 2007
    The annual unemployment rate is projected to fall below 5 percent next year for the first time...
  6. Palace Sports and Entertainment to Co-manage Sterling Heights’ Freedom Hill
    Palace Sports and Entertainment today announced it has joined with Luna Entertainment to manage...