Up until last week, I made the same jokes you probably have about Detroit. When I told my friend I was headed there she told me to “pack heat.” When Cody found out I was going to Detroit he said, “But I don’t think they’ll let the shotgun on the plane.” If you were to look at a map of violent crimes committed in Detroit since early 2012, you’d even start to believe there’s no hope for this city and if you visit you will end up murdered too.
The PR people behind Michigan didn’t shy away from questions about Detroit’s crime and bad reputation. The city has gained a lot of attention lately with its bankruptcy declaration. “It’s a city meant for 1.5 million people, but right now it’s only home to about 750,000. That’s a lot of abandoned homes and a lot of area for city services to cover without a whole lot of taxpayer money.” Yes, there are a lot of abandoned buildings (around 78,000), but there are also areas of the city that are coming back, areas with near saturation in their rental and housing markets. Consequently, the areas that are coming back to their former glory are the areas where there is the least amount of crime on the map.
I’m not naive enough to believe that Detroit will come back overnight. It will take a lot of time, a lot of care, a lot of patience, and a whole lot of money, as well as invested citizens. The citizens I met were invested, they are proud of their city and their truly American roots. With the auto industry coming back, it’s only a matter of time before the city begins growing, slowly but surely. With Twitter opening an office in downtown Detroit last year and incubator buildings popping up, the potential for new and successful small businesses to come out of Detroit is promising.
Investors are buying up abandoned buildings with grand plans to restore the Motor city to its former glory. Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans has started ‘Opportunity Detroit’ and residents are grateful to Gilbert for not only investing money back into the city, but actually doing something with the properties as soon as he acquires them.
One thing’s for sure, my friends who have been to Detroit in the last few years want to go back. There’s something about it – it’s exciting, it’s beautiful, it’s everything wonderful about an old American city, but is yet to truly be discovered. The architecture and art rival that of Chicago and New York. There’s some amazing food to be had and, in the words of one of Detroit’s restaurant owners, “It isn’t a competition here, we all help each other out because when one of us is successful we are all successful.”
I’ve been to more than half of the “25 Most Dangerous Cities” list and I’ve lived to tell about it, even better? I had a fantastic time in every city I visited.
What are your thoughts on Detroit?
Find more of Casey’s writing on her blog moosh in indy or her Babble Voices site Shutterlovely. She’s also available on twitter, facebook, flickr and Instagram. If you can’t find her any of those places? Check the couch, she’s probably taking a nap.