6 big reasons 2017 won’t totally suck — in Detroit, at least

A peek at a QLine streetcar in downtown Detroit. | Photo via Kraemer Design Group on Twitter

Despite my many shining, positive attributes (cough!), I generally am not one to tap dance through a shit storm. So while 2016 was an undeniably awful year, I believe that 2017 — the year the ignorant orange man with absurd hair gets the keys to the White House and the nuclear launch codes — could easily be worse.

But even I, a person of gloomy Scandinavian stock, have to look for some positives once in a while. And in Detroit, of all places, there are definitely things that will take us in a good direction this year and are worth celebrating. Here are six.

Bike sharing launches

Having used bike sharing in other cities, I’ve written frequently and enthusiastically about the yet-to-be-named Detroit Bike Share program. I believe this program could be a real boon for the local economy, the city’s emerging urbanism, public health and general sense of well-being.

Having an easier way to hopscotch around disparate neighborhoods to run errands or meet up for lunch will benefit office drones (hello!), students, residents who don’t own a car or would rather not drive and worry about parking, businesses and all those international tourists you can’t help overhearing roaming our city streets during the summer.

Don’t forget, the New York Times just ranked Detroit No. 9 on its list of 52 places to visit around the world in 2017. As a reminder: You can help suggest station locations here.

More bike lanes

The city has proposed adding protected bike lanes on Livernois Avenue — (both in southwest Detroit and along the Avenue of Fashion), Michigan Avenue and now, in Capitol Park. Mayor Mike Duggan and his urban planner, Maurice Cox, are big supporters of encouraging bike infrastructure.

Plus, the Detroit Greenways Coalition just release its 50-year vision for bicycle thruways, which posits that Detroit could become the “number one bicycling city” and adds that “This report provides ideas and designs that can be incorporated into today’s projects such as the Inner Circle Greenway and the protected bike lane network.”

Qline will finally roll

I confess to some skepticism about this project, especially now that it won’t be part of larger improvements in mass transit after the failure of the RTA transit millage last November. But that doesn’t mean I don’t hope it succeeds, and I do believe that the related construction of stations and other infrastructure will pay dividends.

In my more optimistic moments, I can see the streetcar line helping to persuade skeptics of the benefits of better overall transit for metro Detroit.

Urban planning beyond downtown

Work is proceeding apace on the mayor’s 20-minute neighborhoods initiative, which posits that thriving neighborhoods should offer residents everything they need within a 20-minute walk. And it’s happening well outside the thriving downtown core, in Northwest Detroit’s Fitzgerald neighborhood, West Village and in southwest Detroit.

That the city’s Planning Department is engaged in actual urban planning at all is something of a sea change, according to the Freep:

That goal calls for new density in the city’s neighborhoods by using a variety of tactics, from encouraging retail and residential development to employing “greening” tactics — reforestation, say, and urban farming — to infill areas of widespread vacancy.

New construction galore

The new Red Wings arena looming over Woodward Avenue and its surrounding District Detroit may be the most obvious sign, but it’s far from being the only construction project going on around town.

Across Woodward in the Brush Park neighborhood, construction should begin in earnest on City Modern, a $70 million mixed-use development featuring 410 units of homes, carriage houses, apartments and duplexes being funded by Dan Gilbert. Work is also close to being completed on The Scott, a 200-unit loft apartment complex that fronts Woodward and will include ground-floor retail.

A rendering of the City Modern project.

On the city’s near east side, construction is proceeding quickly on Orleans Landing near the riverfront and on the $45 million DuCharme Place. New hotels are in the works downtown and rehab projects on old apartment buildings are proliferating in Midtown. Surely there will plenty more to surprise us in 2017.

Food scene continues to expand

I’m not a food blogger, but I certainly love to eat, and it’s hard not to be excited by the steady rise in quality food available in Detroit. It’s getting hard to keep up with it all, and I’m way behind on visiting many of the much-heralded crop of new high-end eateries. I’ll just steer you over to Eater’s rundown on highly anticipated new restaurant openings this year. But just count on having more good things to sink your teeth into in 2017.

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