I know what you’re thinking. Why in the world did I decide to visit Detroit? That is a perfectly natural question. After all the terrible stereotypes one hears about motor city, why would DEN Baum want to make that trip?
The reason is that it’s there and I’ve always had a hankering to see it. It’s one thing to hear about black/white race relations gone terribly bad since the end of WWII, the 1967 riots, corrupt municipal governance run a muck, urban rot, blight, and decay, huge crumbling factories, and total economic collapse; and then juxtapose all of that with a Phoenix rising from the ashes which is what the NEW Detroit stands for today. Detroit is still struggling mightily with its past; but working hard to turn the page.
In the early 1900’s, Detroit had the highest per capita income in the US.Today the burb’s of Detroit are in an arrested state of decline. Tate, the hostess and owner of the AirB&B where I stayed informs me that the opportunity to purchase abandoned homes at bargain basement prices has passed Sellers sense that the beginnings of a recovery, feeble as that recovery might be, is at hand. They’re trying to hold on for better days and higher prices.
The new owners of 1920’s vintage properties purchased at bargain basement prices, with an eye towards rehabbing their dilapidated mansions, are faced with astronomical costs in just keeping their utilities on and paying their property taxes, much less making meaningful repairs. The100+ year old property you now own is literally falling down around your head. It’s triage. What do you fix, and what do you allow to die? Most owners repair the roofs and walls, maintain the yard, and hope for better days.
As you travel the city, you come to understand what happened to a city of 1.85M people in the ‘50’s when 1.2M people left after the riots of 1967. Factor in the economic collapse and a sea change in manufacturing which resulted. Abandonment, plain and simple. The white people left for the far away suburbs, and others just simply left. What they left behind were their homes, possessions, and dreams.
I was assured, that despite all the derelict homes and buildings that I observed, Detroit is in WAY better condition and appearance than it was even two years ago. Many derelict homes had been removed.
Detroit is tearing down whole neighborhoods of abandoned buildings, but at a measured pace because it’s an expensive, slow process that needs to be done correctly.
Some neighborhoods become huge cooperative vegetable gardens, others become art projects like Heidelberg.
Downtown Detroit is also a work in progress. I took an interesting and informative 2 hour walking tour which highlighted all the blocks and blocks of real estate now owned by Mr. Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans. With the exception of a few others, it’s as if he is single handedly rebuilding Detroit. There is much re purposing of abandoned skyscrapers taking place, but slowly.
I enjoyed my trip and found every adventure interesting; particularly the Detroit Institute of Art and the Detroit History Museum. However, it’s a trip for the adventurous and for those who want to experience the unusual.