Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Zombies Headed for Detroit? Maybe

Stock Photo by Andrew Beierle
There's a rather creative group of individuals who came up with an interesting, if at times controversial idea, about what to do with some of Detroit's vacant land; one that has gained media attention from across the globe. They want to create zombie theme park that they call Z World Detroit. They are still trying to raise the money for this project, but you can see the details here.

I didn't think much about this idea - until I started to hear people complaining about it. People outside of Detroit tend to like the idea. However, some of my fellow Detroiters are less than receptive to it.

Once upon a time, from 2004 - 09, I helped to coordinate a series of pub crawls for Detroit Synergy. The idea of a pub crawl is fairly simple: bring a few hundred of your best friends to a certain local, they pay a few bucks, get a t-shirt or wristband to identify them as being on the crawl, and then the group bounces from bar to bar throughout the night, usually enjoying drink specials along the way.

Each of the pub crawls brought several hundred people to Detroit from the suburbs. Some of those young people ended up moving into Detroit based, in large part, to the fun that they had on the pub crawl. The added business, as well as the new residents nearby, led to more bars and restaurants opening up in downtown Detroit, which created new jobs and tax revenue for a city that, quite frankly, is in desperate need of both.

Pub Crawlers from September, 2007
Yes, there was a lot more to the resurgence of downtown Detroit besides our pub crawls, not the least of which was a little thing called Super Bowl XL. However, the fact that some 20- and 30-somethings suddenly started moving to Detroit because of the work we did had at least some positive impact.

Anyway, my point in all of this is that back in 2004 - 07, I heard the same complaints about the pub crawls that I hear about Z World Detroit today. We were exploiting Detroit, some people told us. We were promoting Detroit as a place to do all of those things that you wouldn't do in your own neighborhood, others complained.

More than one person claimed that we weren't serious about doing anything to improve life in Detroit. We were just some party kids.

Of course, as more and more people who first came downtown for those pub crawls and other events began to move into the city and as more and more was spent in Detroit, those complaints eventually stopped. Today, downtown Detroit has a vibrant nightlife. Pub crawls have become a more or less commonplace occurrence and none of the problems that people worried about ever materialized.

As for the others who organized those pub crawls with me, each of us has moved on to other things, Most of us, though, are still active in Detroit.

Will Z World Detroit yield similar results? Maybe. Maybe not.

It's impossible to predict where this will lead, just as no one would have predicted that a bunch of recent college graduates would want to move into Detroit based on an experience that they had on a pub crawl. The only way that we'll ever know is to let people with a crazy idea give it a try.
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