The Detroit-Berlin Connection (DBC) has been busy in the first half of 2015.
In May, with guests from both Detroit and Berlin, the DBC held its second annual conference at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD). Presentations included an historical overview by Marsha Battle Philpot of Detroit’s Black Bottom and Paradise Valley entertainment district (sadly demolished for urban renewal projects including the I-75 and I-375 freeways); an introduction to the true meaning of techno by Cornelius Harris and John Collins of Underground Resistance; and a report from VisitBerlin on how the German capital has used its subcultural assets to become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. The conference was capped off by a public conversation with DBC founder Dimitri Hegemann, Packard Plant owner Fernando Palazuelo, Mario Husten of Berlin’s Holzmarkt and Detroit artist Scott Hocking. Much of the conversation was spent talking about the interest that Hegemann and Palazuelo have in entering a potential partnership to redevelop the former Fisher Body 21 Plant.
In June, students from the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) School of Architecture completed a summer studio devoted to a reimagining of Fisher Body 21 Plant. The building in Detroit’s Milwaukee Junction is a target for repurposing by the DBC into a multiuse facility to include dance club, restaurant and hostel. Slides of models and illustrations by UDM students will be available for viewing later this summer.
In August, the DBC will host Detroit city officials and community leaders for a weekend in Berlin. The motivation behind the invitation is to show Detroit leaders the results of over 25 years of revitalization efforts, many of them based on outside-the-box tactics that include marketing Berlin’s round the clock bar service and temporary use of empty spaces for a variety of entrepreneurial opportunities.
An additional motivation is to bring economic, subcultural, and political actors from both cities together. By showing various projects and sites, the DBC wants to shine a light on the importance of cultural entrepreneurship and its power to stimulate the creative economy.
Subcultural industries in the German capital attract over 13 million returning visitors per year, yielding 13 billion Euros in revenue. Berlin has also seen an increase of population of over 200,000 in the past five years. People who come to visit and enjoy the city are more apt to move there in the future. By serving as its economic pillar, this creative industrial sector employs over 250,000 individuals from diverse backgrounds and skill sets.
In partnership with the Ministry of Culture of Berlin and the Mayor‘s Office of Berlin, the Detroit delegates will follow an intense four day schedule of discovery. The dates for the trip are Aug. 20-23, 2015. Germany’s ambassador to the U.S. and the German Marshall Fund (GMF) will host a welcoming reception for the delegates. Cultural performances and visits to repurposed industrial spaces are also part of the program.
A question for visitors from Detroit: what can be learned from Berlin’s 25-year trajectory and how can Detroit achieve similar results? We believe many creative answers will accompany Detroit delegates as they board their flights back home.