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Will hipsters save Detroit?

In an optimistic fashion section profile of Detroit the New York Times reports that the city “seems like a giant candy store for young college graduates wanting to be their own bosses.”

Recent census figures show that Detroit’s overall population shrank by 25 percent in the last 10 years. But another figure tells a different and more intriguing story: During the same time period, downtown Detroit experienced a 59 percent increase in the number of college-educated residents under the age of 35, nearly 30 percent more than two-thirds of the nation’s 51 largest cities.

These days the word “movement” is often heard to describe the influx of socially aware hipsters and artists now roaming the streets of Detroit. Not unlike Berlin, which was revitalized in the 1990s by young artists migrating there for the cheap studio space, Detroit may have this new generation of what city leaders are calling “creatives” to thank if it comes through its transition from a one-industry.

Though the city is widely known for crime, blight and economic decline, David Egner, president and chief executive of the nonprofit Hudson Webber Foundation, tells the Times, “Crime in downtown Detroit is actually 37 percent less than the national average, but few people know that.”

Part of the allure for the young and educated is the cheap real estate and some employers are offering rent or purchasing subsidies to get their workers to move downtown.

Some think that prosperity generated by an influx of young people will trickle out to those who are struggling to survive in the rest of the city.

“There is so much space and opportunity here,” said Jason Murphy, 34, one of two Bennington College graduates who bought an iconic restaurant, the Russell Street Deli, in the city’s Eastern Market area, three and a half years ago. “What we hope is that our movement of young people with businesses in greater downtown Detroit can help the many people in the outlying neighborhoods who are still living below the poverty line.” He and his business partner support the many urban farms popping up in vacant spaces throughout the city, he said, like Grown in Detroit and Brother Nature, and buy locally whenever possible.

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