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March 17, 2010; Time Magazine | If Detroit succeeds in climbing out of its deep decline, a lot of credit will have to go to several philanthropic foundations that are teaming with the city on a series of unique—perhaps unprecedented—initiatives designed to revitalize Motor City. According to Time magazine, the Kresge and Skillman Foundations, both based in Detroit, as well as the Eli Broad Foundation in Los Angeles, are “seeding the reinvention of Detroit.”

For instance, later this month, a highly regarded planner, Toni Griffin, will take the lead in implementing what the magazine calls the most “ambitious urban makeover in American history—the downsizing of Detroit, a city built to accommodate a population more than twice its current size.” (See this newswire on Detroit’s revitalization.)

Griffin’s salary, and the cost of the team she needs to help her accomplish her work—which the city, with all its other stresses, can’t afford—is being paid for by Kresge. In addition, Kresge and Skillman are funding the operations of another city agency: Data Driven Detroit, which did the preliminary analysis that will guide much of Griffin’s work.

The article also notes that one-third of the $425,000 annual salary that Robert Bobb receives for his work as emergency financial manager for the Detroit public schools is being paid by a group of philanthropies, including the Broad Foundation.

One more example of the philanthropic commitment to Detroit’s survival: Kresge has put up $35 million in seed money for a trolley line that will connect downtown with an Amtrak station 3.5 miles north. “The foundations are making investments to augment the capacity of government,” says Bruce Katz, founding director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings. “They’re pooling funds to take on a monumental task, which is, How do you begin to change the trajectory of an entire metropolitan economy?”

And what kind of reaction is this largess producing? “I’m jumping up and down,” says Charles Pugh, recently elected president of the Detroit city council. So are we.—Bruce Trachtenberg