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"Don't call it a comeback/I've been here for years."
November 27, 2012 2:31 AM   Subscribe

Jay Walljasper covers Detroit: Not Your Father's Motor City, The Surprise Behind Detroit's Emerging Comeback, Young People’s Fascination With Motor City is Only Part of Detroit Revitalization, A Food Commons Grows In Detroit.

The Detroit Free Press writes: Taking The Land Into Your Own Hands (via Reason: Homesteading on the Detroit Frontier)

An Interview with Mark Binelli on his book Why Detroit City Is The Place To Be. And How An Upstart Company In Detroit Is Building An American Heritage Brand: Shinola.

Schrodinger's Detroit:
However, we all know that hope springs eternal in the human breast. Our other thread is the resurrection narrative, where scrappy Detroiters are rallying around their city, and rebuilding it in the spirit of a DIY revolution.
posted by the man of twists and turns (31 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Meet The Bike Enterpreneurs Helping To Rebuild Detroit's Economy

How To Bring Detroit Back From The Grave:"Dirt-cheap buildings and big dreamers: recipe for a Motor City renaissance?"
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:35 AM on November 27, 2012


Detroit would seem to be headed the way of Pittsburgh: A smaller, wealthier, liveable inner city full of life and commerce surrounded by decaying suburbs full of people living in poverty.

In other words, quite the exact opposite of American urban development patterns of the past century, but maybe an improvement none the less.
posted by three blind mice at 3:52 AM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Last year, John Patrick Leary in Guernica wrote Detroitism, in which he outlined the three "Detroit stories." One is:
Detroit Utopia

The third major subgenre of the popular Detroit narrative is a backlash against the pornographic excesses of the Lament and is, at best, an attempt to find a new definition of urban vitality. The Utopians are well-meaning defenders of the city’s possibilities. Locally, they are often politically active, often young, and, it should be noted, often white. This class of Detroit story chronicles Detroit’s possibilities, with a heavy emphasis on art and urban agriculture on abandoned land. It can also take the form of human-interest stories about local entrepreneurs persevering amidst the destruction. Toby Barlow’s series of New York Times articles on bicycling and one-hundred-dollar houses in the city anticipated a gentrification-fuelled Detroit Renaissance that most honest observers must admit will never come. (If Detroit is really so full of possibilities, why do so many of the possibilities so closely resemble a cut-rate version of what western Brooklyn already looks like?) Despite their differences, the common problem with many of the Lamenters and Utopians is that both see Detroit as an exception to the contemporary United States, rather than as one of its exemplary places. Detroit figures as either a nightmare image of the American Dream, where equal opportunity and abundance came to die, or as an updated version of it, where bohemians from expensive coastal cities can have the one-hundred-dollar house and community garden of their dreams.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:52 AM on November 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


A smaller, wealthier, liveable inner city full of life and commerce surrounded by decaying suburbs full of people living in poverty.

this is such a great idea, what if we did it for the entire country
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:00 AM on November 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


A smaller, wealthier, liveable inner city full of life and commerce surrounded by decaying suburbs full of people living in poverty.
Right now, it seems to be a wealthy inner city, surrounded by occasional pockets of middle class neighborhoods in a sea of poverty. Some of the inner ring suburbs are doing quite well, others not (which ones haven't changed in the last 40 years). Sometimes it's the same one, just in different directions (Dearborn, I'm looking at you).

Despite their differences, the common problem with many of the Lamenters and Utopians is that both see Detroit as an exception to the contemporary United States, rather than as one of its exemplary places.
Honestly, I think it *is* an exception. I can't think of another major city in the US that so alienated itself from its state. (30+ years of mayors running the city as a personal fiefdom will do that. Kwame was probably inevitable -- if not him, someone else.)
posted by jlkr at 5:28 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


> this is such a great idea, what if we did it for the entire country

Gov. Romney would complain and describe urban renewal as a 'gift' to Democratic constituents -- at least 47% of them.  And he'd know, of course, because his Dad once ran the place, from '63 to '69.

(I was hoping that they had been the Ward Cleaver years, rather than the Manson ones.)

(Actually, it sounds like Chicago in the '90s.)
posted by vhsiv at 5:47 AM on November 27, 2012


A smaller, wealthier, liveable inner city full of life and commerce surrounded by decaying suburbs full of people living in poverty.

The actual geography is complicated, but isn't it more something like a well-off inner bullseye, surrounded by a ring of mostly poverty (but with rich pockets in it), and then that is in turn surrounded by the far-out ring of wealthy places all the way out to Ann Arbor etc? Concentric circles, rather than just a single contrast.

> this is such a great idea, what if we did it for the entire country

I'm not sure what the advantages are of changing the places that are poor, when you are not changing who is poor.
posted by Forktine at 5:49 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because rent is cheap?
posted by aerotive at 6:09 AM on November 27, 2012


"The actual geography is complicated, but isn't it more something like a well-off inner bullseye, surrounded by a ring of mostly poverty (but with rich pockets in it), and then that is in turn surrounded by the far-out ring of wealthy places all the way out to Ann Arbor etc? Concentric circles, rather than just a single contrast."

There's actually a name for this pattern of revitalization, it's called the "poverty donut." As downtowns have been largely revitalized, poverty is concentrated and pushed out a bit from the downtown. Then people come in and gentrify the neighborhoods just outside the downtown, through a process that combines the city seeking renewal grants for near-downtown properties, increased policing on the edges of the revitalized downtown, and people seeking cheap housing near to work. And so poverty scoots outward a bit again. The big fear of urban leaders is generally that the poverty donut swallows and destroys a long-time-stable middle- or working-class neighborhood as it goes by, and not only do you have 20 years of shit in that neighborhood, but then you have to pay to revitalize it. A lot of those families, who kept those neighborhoods strong throughout the first wave of urban decay, flee the poverty donut, and once they leave the city because of the poverty donut, don't come back.

Well, maybe they come back when the poverty donut reaches the suburbs. We'll see, I guess.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:35 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised there's no mention of John Hantz and his urban farming enterprise.
posted by slogger at 6:39 AM on November 27, 2012


I'm not sure what the advantages are of changing the places that are poor, when you are not changing who is poor.
there isn't really an advantage to tiny enclaves of rich people surrounded by wastelands of poverty

i was being sarcastic and then nobody got it :(
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 6:44 AM on November 27, 2012


The story of Detroit is about to open a new chapter. Mike Duggan is going to be the next mayor.
posted by JohnR at 6:59 AM on November 27, 2012


The geography of Detroit is more like:

Small downtown core (CBD, arenas, cultural institutions, apartment buildings, university): current prime area for gentrification. not really rich in any sense of the word, but has more opportunities and less crime than..

Detroit outlying neighborhoods (dense single family homes, early suburban character): really poor areas, with small middle class pockets here and there. generally very segregated and where most of the crime and abandonment are prevalent. $100 homes and 'urban prairie' tend to be located here

Inner ring suburbs (physically indistinguishable from Detroit neighborhoods): areas that are becoming poor and more dangerous, although most of the people that live here are white, these areas are quickly desegregating as people from Detroit leave the city.

Outer ring suburbs (less dense suburbia, McMansions, strip malls): solidly white areas that aren't dangerous, most of the service jobs/malls/suburban office parks are located here.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 7:14 AM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


An Interview with Mark Binelli on his book Why Detroit City Is The Place To Be.


Actually, Binelli's book is just called "Detroit City is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis."

( "Detroit City is the Place to Be" being a lyric from a Ted Nugent song. No particular "Why" is necessarily stated or implied. )
posted by atomo at 8:03 AM on November 27, 2012


According to plentiful media reports, well-educated twenty-somethings are streaming into the Motor City to test out new ideas, explore art and music projects or launch DIY revitalization initiatives.

I swear I read the exact same thing in 1998.

I grew up in mid-suburban detroit--St. Clair Shores--and it seems like white people there don't want anything to do with the "city" - they've got their "townships."

"In the 2000s, 115 of the 185 cities and townships in Metro Detroit were over 95% white." - source (PDF).

I always thought it was crazy when people would talk about "the South" as segregated, when hell, we've got the most segregated city in the country.

Detroit has race problems, auto industry problems, and weather problems (it's too fucking cold). Global warming may take care of #2 and #3, but #1 is going to be a mess for a while. It's been what, 45 years since the riot?

"When the Kerner Commission report is published in March 1968, it describes America as two societies, black and white, separate and unequal, and recommends new government programs to break down racial barriers and increase opportunity. However, faced with the growing costs of the Vietnam War, Johnson does not act. "

:(
posted by mrgrimm at 8:26 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Greening of Detroit
posted by mrgrimm at 8:26 AM on November 27, 2012


I can't think of another major city in the US that so alienated itself from its state.

New York?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:29 AM on November 27, 2012


Chicago?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:32 AM on November 27, 2012


New York and Chicago contain sizable portions of their state's population as well as their elites. Michigan and the metro area have never really been as invested in the health of Detroit as NY and Illinois have with NYC and Chicago.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 9:44 AM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


map of population change 2000-2010, blue is increase, red is decline
posted by markvalli at 10:06 AM on November 27, 2012


New York and Chicago contain sizable portions of their state's population as well as their elites. Michigan and the metro area have never really been as invested in the health of Detroit as NY and Illinois have with NYC and Chicago.

I guess I'm not sure I understand the distinction. Although I was assuming you were speaking predominantly about political and social differences; the rest of New York State kinda doesn't like how New York City gets all the attention, and is markedly different in terms of political outlook. My hunch is that without New York City, the rest of New York state would be a "red state".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:09 AM on November 27, 2012


map of population change 2000-2010, blue is increase, red is decline

Exactly. My cousin just moved from 2 hours away from the city to 3 hours away from the city because too many black people were moving into the neighborhood. Seriously.

I would love to see a resurgent Detroit, but I'm not holding my breath to see it during my lifetime. They'll need to get on top of whatever replaces automobiles. And soon!
posted by mrgrimm at 10:25 AM on November 27, 2012


EC, I think that's true of most large cities and their states: PA, OH, CO come to mind. But I meant that only about 8 or 9% of Michiganders live in Detroit; about 40 percent of NYS'ers are NYC'ers. And between 25-30 percent for Chicago. And the richest residents of NYS and Illinois live in NYC or Chicago; the richest residents of MI aren't in Detroit, and don't have as much of a stake in it. So the state doesn't really have a vested interest in solving Detroit's problems or making it a nice place to live. Pretty much all the state action around Detroit is to ensure that it doesn't go bankrupt and become the state's problem.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 10:44 AM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm in a city that had big donut issues 15 years ago and turned around completely, almost to the polar opposite. I'd be very interested in meeting Detroiters working on this on every level. Obviously, we have a story to tell, maybe you can use some knowledge we have gathered and that is fine. But I think we are more interested in setting up a diverse family of cases, with very different back-stories, for reference for other cities and individuals.
Memail me and I will set up shop right away.
posted by mumimor at 12:30 PM on November 27, 2012


So the state doesn't really have a vested interest in solving Detroit's problems or making it a nice place to live. Pretty much all the state action around Detroit is to ensure that it doesn't go bankrupt and become the state's problem.

That's part of it. The other part of it is that many Detroiters don't *want* the state to come in and solve their problems [They'll take the money, sure (after all, they 'deserve it' because they're so broke), but only if they get to do what they want with it]. (It's better than it used to be, but there's a feeling of 'we're in trouble. and it's all your fault, make it better!' 'What do you mean we have to do something?' from the city.) And much of the outlying state is tired of throwing good money after bad -- Detroit has gotten a lot of state development money over the last 40 years, and doesn't seem to have done anything useful with it.
posted by jlkr at 4:37 PM on November 27, 2012


Meanwhile, how's Baltimore faring?
posted by Apocryphon at 5:11 PM on November 27, 2012


CSMonitor reviews Detroit City Is The Place To Be
“If there was national schadenfreude about the failure of Detroit, regional schadenfreude was even stronger, and it hinged in large part on race,” he writes. “In that moment, I thought of certain aspects of United States foreign policy – the practice of isolating enemy states financially and then watching the leader whom we’ve likely labeled a tyrant act more and more like one as his regime begins to crumble under the pressure of the embargo. The leader and his state must fail in order to confirm the triumph of our own ideology; and if his people do not rise up against him, their suffering is, at least in part, their own fault. Here, Detroit was the rogue state, defying the bullying hegemony of a superpower that wanted to install its own hand-picked leader, making the transfer of any remaining natural resources that much smoother.”
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:04 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


a review of Detropia:
How did Detroit — the world’s fastest-growing city in 1950 — become America’s fastest-shrinking city in 2012, complete with 100,000 empty houses and a total 40 square miles of vacant lots? And what does this mean for the rest of the U.S. as manufacturing continues to move offshore? These questions are the starting point for Detropia, a beautiful and wrenching new film by seasoned filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, who earned an Oscar nomination for their 2006 film Jesus Camp.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:34 AM on December 1, 2012


One Year On The Front Lines Of The Battle To Save Detroit: A Must-See Movie About Public Service That Is Not Named "Lincoln"
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:33 AM on December 6, 2012


Meanwhile, how's Baltimore faring?

Here you go: BALTIMORE
posted by mrgrimm at 9:26 AM on December 7, 2012


I can't think of another major city in the US that so alienated itself from its state.

Pittsburgh

St. Louis

Baltimore

I wonder how global climate change will affect these cities?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:38 AM on December 12, 2012


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