By Terry Foster

DETROIT – The most exciting thing about the new arena district surrounding the Red Wings new arena is not the venue itself. It is the neighborhood surrounding it.

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I have seen the good and the bad of the Midtown area that houses the new Red Wings arena. It was called the Cass Corridor way before it was called Midtown.

It was a dangerous and imposing place that was torn to shreds by the riots and later neglect. It was filled with drugs, prostitution, rotting houses and former businesses. My family grew up three miles from the stadium site where I-75 rumbles daily as commuters make the trek from the suburbs to downtown, Midtown and the Eastern Market.

This is an area where young men were shot and killed by STRESS, a team of undercover police that were used as decoys to lure robbers. It is where I stood at a stop light and was startled by a toothless crack head that wanted to service me for $20. She lowered her price to $10 as I drove away.

Credit: Terry Foster

Credit: Terry Foster

The new stadium district will clean up an area that has needed a bath for decades.

It was a scary place that 95 percent of Detroiters never ventured in. Now we see signs of growth and this project, along with the Mike Ilitch school of business, is a major step forward.

The other thing downtown and Midtown needs is connection. The two areas must be connected. And Midtown must connect with Wayne State University and the museum district.

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The huge mistake city planners made was building fortresses that stood alone and did not connect the rest of downtown. Let me give you an example. The Renaissance Center is a fortress that does not spill into downtown. Greek Town is a wonderful place to go, but is spoiled by a court house and jail.

Credit: Terry Foster

Credit: Terry Foster

Ford Field and Comerica Park are limited because they have a court house and two churches nearby, which limits entertainment.

The arena in itself will not stimulate the area. It is the blocks of housing, bars and restaurants, academic buildings and walkabout sidewalks that will make this area pop.

We have a chance to clean up mistakes made by earlier city planners.

I have included aerial photographs made by the Red Wings that show what the area can look like. There is connection in Midtown. There is connection to the Motor City Casino and the Lodge, a plot that remains dangerous to walk in at night. That should no longer be the case once this neighborhood is built.

If it is, then this entire project is a failure even if the Red Wings are filling their new arena and enjoying more winning seasons.

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(Foster can be reached at