Philip Lauri, 27, is the founder and creator of Detroit Lives!, a business and organization whose sole mission is to get people to work, live, and play in Detroit simply by spreading the good word of Detroit. The website, detroitlives.org, features a blog with current projects and the latest developments in Detroit, as well as a store with merchandise representing the positive message they aim to promote about Detroit.
It was at the Detroit Urban Craft Fair, hosted by Handmade Detroit at the beginning of December, where I saw Philip. He had a booth for Detroit Lives! with sweatshirts, t-shirts, and other merchandise. I became interested in hearing more about what Detroit Lives! was about and how it all came to light.
Philip had a positive image of Detroit in his mind starting at a young age. His grandfather owned the Lauri Bros. Supermarket on Gratiot and Van Dyke years ago, and Philip would revel in the stories he told around the dinner table. But it was while driving through the bush in Australia a couple years ago that Philip had the idea for the company.
“I was just sitting there staring away, daydreaming like I do,” Philip said. ”The previous night I had read that Mitch Albom article, ‘The Courage of Detroit.’ At the time it rang kind of true with me just because I was at such a distance from the city, but with such confidence about moving back given the love I had for it.”
Determined to dispel people’s misconceptions and fears about Detroit, Philip decided it would be his mission to share everything great that is currently going on in Detroit, but also work hard to make more positive things happen.
When asked what the members of Detroit Lives! are currently working on, Philip mentioned several projects he and his company have in the works: In order to start a college campus tour, supporters can buy inches of land through LOVELAND; Philip hopes to get out into the community and start dialogue with people about the great opportunities in the city so they can be hopeful and see the potential, as well; The MANTRACITY (mantra+city+monstrosity) project, an ongoing series of murals, has a goal of having 25 different large-scale paintings up by next summer. Each will contain a positive, witty and uplifting message. Pictures from the first mural can be seen here.
I asked Philip what he would say to those who still have so many doubts and fears about Detroit.
“Well, let’s put it this way. Every place in the world has its share of issues: good, bad and the ugly. Detroit may at times require you to be a little more vigilant than others, but there is no city in the country right now with this particular cocktail of opportunity. A mix of economic, social and geographical opportunity.”
Though it’s not going to be easy, Detroit Lives! has already proven that if you make an effort and actually show people the positive things, rather than just talk about them, progress can be made and people will join in the cause.
“We literally have the opportunity to reinvent an American city, something that hasn’t happened in this country for practically 100 years,” Philip said. ”Sure, there might be some dangers. But keep your eyes peeled, lock your doors, whatever. Those issues to me are dwarfed by the infinite opportunity to succeed in this town. Period.”