Denver is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. There is so much infill, so many hip and trendy restaurants, so many exciting civic projects and new neighborhood plans and transit and TOD that it’s hard for an urbanist to keep track.

Detroit has lost population every year for more than half a century (except this year). There are places in Detroit’s central business district that have such a low volume of traffic that the stoplights are set to flash 24/7. There are more surface parking lots and empty historic buildings than you could shake a hipster at. I had to walk a third-world-esque 11 minutes to get to a Starbucks.

Downtown Detroit may as well be zone T1.

I also blew out the crotch of my jeans

and there’s no reasonable replacement within a $50 round trip Uber ride.

Which got me thinking about comfort and how it’s pretty much the same thing as death. It’s very comfortable to live in Denver: The weather is ideal, there is a Starbucks within 3 minutes of anywhere downtown, as well as a Gap and enough residents to support downtown restaurants being open on the weekend.

New opportunities fan out and diminish over time. The first railroad baron made a lot more money than the dozens who started a decade later. The first Vine stars have a much larger following than the equally-entertaining hundreds who started just months later. Right now, Denver has far more opportunities, but Detroit’s are bigger. This goes for its citizens as well as the city.

There’s a big part of me that wants to uproot and be part of the revolution here, but alas, I have school for the next two years in Denver. I’ll just suffer through my lattes and public-appropriate pants until then.

Detroit is in the zygote stage of its rebirth. If policy makers and physical planners get the brains and bones in the right place with enough room to adapt, the growth could be astronomical.

With the streets empty and traffic low, side avenues or entire branches of Downtown Detroit’s radial street grid could be converted to complete streets of even fully pedestrianized. On-street parking can be converted to pick-up/drop-off zones for Uber and driverless cars. Urban highways can be removed before the traffic balloons and the NIMBYs throw tantrums. Tax advantages could be given to small businesses. As soon as everyone has their basic services met, of course.

If the futurists like myself are right, cities are set to change drastically in the coming years. Civic tech and driverless cars and hyperloops, oh my. Detroit is placed to leapfrog the rest of the country. Again.

I have a YouTube Channel about cities. Check it out.

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