How a 24-hour economy helps building a city

Detroit has gone from being the richest city in North America to filing for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history by debt. Six years after the downfall, Detroit has recovered and is said to hold potential to function as a playground across all ages.

Adrian Tonon is the 24-hour economy ambassador at the Mayor’s office of the City of Detroit, Michigan. Few cities in the States are culturally and economically as interesting as Detroit. Once the richest city in the country, with thousands of workers coming for the jobs in the automotive industry, rapidly increasing the population to 1.5 million in the 1950s, the city has experienced an extreme downfall to bankruptcy and abandonment. 

For many decades, Detroit was known for automotive, and for music. Anyone who likes techno music has surely spent some riveting hours reading about or watching the incredible scene that sprung in Detroit’s streets. After 2012, when the local government officially filed bankruptcy, a new approach was necessary to attract businesses back to the city. One mportant step was to identify and reconnect with the city’s musical, cultural history and intelligence.

Adrian Tonon called this the ’’12 sectors of creatives’’, amongst which he listed music, film, TV, advertising and culinary arts. By its nature, the night is a cultural environment for talent development that is crucially different from daytime opportunities. The goal must be for authorities to approach nightlife activities as an economic and cultural resource. Tonon works towards reestablishing Detroit as a city ’’where people can live, work, and play.’’

Contrary to what one might think initially, a 24-hour economy is not only about partying and dancing. It is a much more versatile concept, reflected in the word economy. The concept truly aims at providing anyone at any time of day with crucial commodities, which in the long run make a city more attractive to live in (hence rebuilding it from bankruptcy, such as Detroit, or preventing it from the latter). This can mean that a nurse coming home from a late night shift can still find a restaurant open at 2am in the morning. A business woman or man may find a dry cleaner at the same hours, or a night worker who enjoys an occasional music and dance venue can find an open pub at 7 am.

With a 24 hour availability, a city such as Detroit has the potential to function as a playground across all ages, as Adrian Tonon puts it:

– We want Detroit to be attractive from early childhood through college, to being a pipeline for jobs.

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