Detroiters hoping the NFL Draft changes perceptions of the city

Posted at 6:32 AM, Apr 24, 2024

(WXYZ) — The Motor City is getting ready to shine for the NFL Draft, but for people who've never been here or some who have had a negative view of the city, this could be the moment decades-old perceptions about the city finally change.

I talked with longtime Detroiters, a historian, a blight buster, a community activist and Mayor Mike Duggan to get their take.

I asked Detroiters if the perception the city gets is fair.

"No, I don’t think it’s fair. If I go to Chicago it’s bad. If you go in the wrong spot, you’re in the wrong spot," she said.

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As Duggan mentioned in his State of the City address last Wednesday, Detroit made headlines in years past for murders, shootings, carjackings, abandoned buildings, fires, bankruptcies and more.

However, he was proud to tout a significant drop in crime, continued blight enforcement, more neighborhood improvements, park upgrades and historic development.

Watch his State of the City address below

Mayor Mike Duggan delivers 2024 State of the City speech

“I really hope since we don’t start until the evening on Thursday and Friday, they take the day and walk the Riverwalk – which as you know – USA Today has called three years in a row the finest Riverwalk in America. But we’re going to encourage people who like music to go to the Motown Museum, people who like Mexican food to go into Southwest Detroit, Greek food into Greektown. We’re going to encourage our visitors to get out and explore," Duggan said.

It's something that activist Helen Moore agrees with.

“What do you hope visitors will take away from their visit to Detroit?" I asked Moore.

"Walk around, check Detroit out, and you will find even the people that have the least money, etc. are good people," she said.

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The 86-year-old was surprised at the end of the State of the City address to to learn the Dexter-Elmhurst Community Center she helped save will be called the "Helen Moore Community Center." She understands more work is needed.

"Do you think Detroit is safe?" I asked her.

"Oh, God, that's a problem. But I have to compare it to the past and I say we're getting there, but we're not there yet," Moore said.

"What do you see the city doing differently this time around compared to the the Super Bowl planning that you think could really score big with visitors' perceptions of the city?" I asked City Historican Jamon Jordan.

"The involvement of community organizations, the involvement of businesses, legacy businesses in the city of Detroit, the involvement of African-American business owners, that is going to make all the difference," he said.

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Jordan said iconic spots like Hot Sam's Clothing and Cafe D'Mongo's Speakeasy will be among the local standouts to impress out-of-towners.

John George, the executive director and co-founder of Detroit Blight Busters, showed me where a $21 million redevelopment is underway in Northwest Detroit. he thinks perceptions are changing.

“People say, 'Hey, where are you from?' And you say, 'Detroit.' What's the typical reaction you get?" I asked George.

"Well, it's getting better. Before it was like shock and horror," he said. “I believe Detroit is on the front porch of the greatest urban comeback story in this nation's history. But we have to work together."

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The most recent Gallup poll taken in July of last year asked people how safe the consider 16 of the country's biggest cities showed Detroit ranked at the bottom of the 16. Only 26% of respondents considered the city "safe to live in or visit," whether they'd visited here or not. That's the same percentage it was in 2006 ,the year of the Super Bowl.

As we know, a lot has changed since then, including a significant drop in crime, but the city isn't worried about prior perceptions, putting it's best foot forward and hoping to dazzle everybody coming to the D.

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