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MetaDetroit: Detroit is the new Brooklyn?
September 11, 2010 6:09 AM   Subscribe

A series of three clips (plus a bonus) that detail how Detroit is morphing into the new hipster paradise. Highlights include a good description of Detroit's physical size, Knoxville's awe at the width of Telegraph, and a trip to Barry Gordy's house.
posted by Leta (62 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
This hits me personally as I was born in Detroit, the youngest of 5. And my parents were part of the white exodus to get the fuck outta there in 1972... headed for Texas (not my decision I was 2!). Considering the current political climate in Texas, and my proximity to GWB's house, I'm ready to go back.
posted by punkfloyd at 6:49 AM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Berry Gordy.
posted by Ike_Arumba at 6:54 AM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


2012:

Detroit sees a noticeable uptick in young immigrants among the self-employed and urban-farmer demographic. They remain true and loyal until they have kids and bugger off.

2014:

Independent schools and home-schooling keep some families in town. Tension grows between the urban farmers and the MoTown Monks. The great Magnetic Storm of '14 ruins internet access to Detroit, leaving it completely cut off from the outside world.

2020:

Outright war breaks out between the various increasingly fanatical factions. Lives are ruined, families torn asunder, etc etc. The original immigrants declare the scene "dead"

2029:

The New York Times runs a Style section trend piece on how Detroit is seeing a noticeable uptick in young immigrants among the self-employed and urban-farmer demographic.

2033:

Zombie Interlude.

2046:

Retro-trend youngsters decide to go all Teen-y and re-start the Detroit Project for funsies. It's like we're REALLY living here OMG get a picture of me tilling soil!

2089:

The Retroactive Nostalgia Board declares Detroit a projected zone and closes it off to any new development. Visitors can tour the meticulously re-created hipster homes and learn about how they would eek out a primitive but charming existence. There are many gift shops.

2168:

A theory that the village of Deeroy might have been the site of bustling metropolis gets laughed out of the Yum Corp Thought Sphere.
posted by The Whelk at 7:25 AM on September 11, 2010 [42 favorites]


Delta City: The Future Has A Silver Lining

This message has been brought to you by OCP.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:29 AM on September 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


interesting videos. nice to see toby still kickin' it.

but I still don't want to move to detroit. vacation during the summer? hell, yeah. living there? uhm, no.
posted by krautland at 7:35 AM on September 11, 2010


Interesting stuff.

I disagree with the statement at the end that Detroit doesn't need a 'gamechanger' in terms of industry. Artists may be 'filling in the gaps', but beyond creating a lot of places to 'hang out and do whatever' for them and their friends, I'm not sure if this is the economic cure to help the city at large. There still has to be something to support larger numbers of people, a larger tax base, than an industry which buddy wants to only have grow at 100 twenty year olds a year.

Until then, yes, it's a great, interesting and cheap place for young artists to be. And yes, art can be the city's future, just as Pittsburgh changed from steel to medicine and education. But the change needs to be much larger than just what these kids are doing. What the city needs for its sustenance is different (and maybe even contrary) to those parts the kids are coming for.

Even the kids will grow out of this, in time. They grow up and simply can't live in that environment because of kids or whatever, they get tired of the chic decay and just go for something that works, as if trading their first beater car for something reliable, or they meet with success and they leave. As Berry Gordy.

Don't get me wrong -- I love all of this, and love that it's going on. But yes, Detroit does need a gamechanger, and no, this isn't it. But it's also true that I have no idea what the solution is, and these kids are out there trying.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:45 AM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ha. I've often thought that if enough people got together and wanted to take over whole lots of houses being sold at dirt cheap prices it would be a phenemonal way to regenerate Detroit.

Says the man who lives in London, where you need to mortgage your first born just to get a garden shed.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:49 AM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do hipsters have much disposable income as a rule? In London they all seem to live three to a room like starving artists, or that might just be the ones I've met.
posted by shinybaum at 7:51 AM on September 11, 2010


As someone who lives in Livonia, which is just about 15 minutes down the road from D-Town, this makes me want to cast off the shackles of suburban sprawl and head down to the heart of the city and check out some of this stuff. As it is, I usually just think of Detroit as a place people go to die (or see a show once a year).

So thanks, Johnny Knoxville. This was better than you clipping electrical leads to your testicles or whatever.
posted by kbanas at 7:53 AM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


2168: A theory that the village of Deeroy might have been the site of bustling metropolis gets laughed out of the Yum Corp Thought Sphere.

Wow! 2168 and fast food corporation Yum Brands is still one of the major players in the world.
posted by Roger Dodger at 7:59 AM on September 11, 2010


Roger Dodger: After the fast food wars, the only remaining restaurant is Taco Bell.
posted by theclaw at 8:18 AM on September 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


By 2168 the traditional English greetings will have given way to "Which Taco Bell do your work at?"
posted by jsavimbi at 8:47 AM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


@Muffinman: "Ha. I've often thought that if enough people got together and wanted to take over whole lots of houses being sold at dirt cheap prices it would be a phenemonal way to regenerate Detroit."

Definitely going on! Some stalwarts have bought up their own entire blocks and are being choosey about who they rent to; others are greening entire city blocks by refitting the houses and so forth.

@shineybaum: "Do hipsters have much disposable income as a rule? In London they all seem to live three to a room like starving artists, or that might just be the ones I've met."

You can buy a house in Detroit for $1,000, no problem. You can get one with intact appliances and whatnot for $8,000 without much difficulty.

Especially if you're handy (and not too picky about neighborhoods), there are many deals to be had.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:50 AM on September 11, 2010


> Do hipsters have much disposable income as a rule?

If you mean 20-30 somethings, yeah, there are folks who have college degrees and are motivated and passionate about what they are doing who can also write a grant or a business plan, and get funding to start a business. They also happen to dress the same as the folks who are crashing at three to a room so they can go to cool shows near their house.

A friend of mine in seattle works as a neurobiologist in a leading privately funded research lab, but until recently lived in a house with ten other people, because it was cheap and he decided he'd rather put up with the cramped quarters than pay the extra money for his own place. And it meant easy access to parties when he wasn't working. But you wouldn't think he was a leading research scientist when you ran into him at a bar.
posted by mrzarquon at 8:52 AM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Some stalwarts have bought up their own entire blocks and are being choosey about who they rent to

Forgive my cynicism, but I can't escape the thought that there's someone, at this very moment, feverishly working to put a stop to this (specifically, the "choosiness") via legal action. Whether those people are justified depends on their criteria for choosiness, I suppose.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:11 AM on September 11, 2010


This is great. I mean I don't believe there's any noticeable difference between the amount of cool artists in Detroit now than there was 5 or 10 years ago, because Dtown has always had a really awesome scene. But Im glad to see Johnny Knoxville coming around praising it--maybe that'll convince some folks with money to venture back in and help the artists out a bit.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:15 AM on September 11, 2010


There's nothing wrong with being choosy about who you rent to if it's not based on certain factors. Housing discrimination based on your race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, or disability is illegal by federal law. That leaves plenty of latitude on who you can rent to and other factors you can be choosy about. Plus, it's so cheap to buy up old houses, you can sit on them and fill them with people you know without advertising the place for rent. Want to build an artist collective? Don't rent to non-artists. Want to build a farming co-op? Only rent to people that will take part in farming or have some knowledge about it. I think that's the kind of choosiness involved here.
posted by Roger Dodger at 9:21 AM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh and Ko from the Dirtbombs is definitely the coolest and nicest music person I've ever met in the entire universe. When my band was on tour she came over to her neighbors house at 3 in the morning to drink tea and guide us through the legalities of touring in Canada.

And for that matter, these boots are pretty sweet too. Thanks you sponsored content!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:25 AM on September 11, 2010


Thanks for the post. An interesting documentary that made me feel optimistic -- a feeling that was not completely squelched by the cynicism and snark (yeah, and some facts of life) from some of the comments. Most cities go through cycles of growth and decline and it's best to hop on in the phase of the cycle where the future looks bright.
posted by binturong at 9:29 AM on September 11, 2010


"Whether those people are justified depends on their criteria for choosiness, I suppose."

Background check for drugs is most of what I've read, along with ability to pay rent.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:39 AM on September 11, 2010


This series of videos actually gave me a little bit of hope for today's 20-somethings. The amount of raw material to work with in Detroit is simply staggering, provided you bring your own will-power and ideas.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:39 AM on September 11, 2010


The video makes Detroit seem like a more extreme Berlin - lots of cheap housing and the ability to have an impact on the growth of the city draws young people, artists, and (maybe less-so for Detroit) people who want to create alternative lifestyles. They create a lot of businesses, fix up dilapidated buildings, and bring the city back to life. Of course, it was really just East Berlin that was in disrepair and half-abandoned after the wall came down, with affluent West Berlin sitting right there. So, not a perfect analogy, but I wouldn't totally dismiss the positive influence of a bunch of hopeful, motivated, and creative young people moving to the city. If they actually fix up some buildings to make the city livable for older people, there is no certainty that they would move away.
posted by molecicco at 9:43 AM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


HOLY SHIT I just watched far enough to see this is all about Phil Cooley and Slows BarBQ. It was his house we were at when Ko came over. He is the best person of all time, and Slows is the best BBQ I've ever had.

Short version, Phil came to our show when we played St. Andrews hall, brought us food and then we drove all over town late at night while he gave us the detailed, if slightly tipsy, history of every single building we saw, both new and abandoned. He took us to his amazing house which he built himself and served us local wine and shot the shit all night.

I've never met anyone with that much honest passion for their city before, much less a city so maligned and distrusted by most folks even in the area. If he's not mayor in 10 years I'll eat my hat.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:44 AM on September 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also, why did they just walk into Berry Gordy's house, and why was no one there? It's so bizarre.
posted by molecicco at 9:44 AM on September 11, 2010


Looks like there is an opportunity for change, so it's just a matter of who takes the reins. Detroit could be the new Brooklyn, or the next Vegas.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 9:54 AM on September 11, 2010


If you are going to make cool boots, please make cool boots with steel toes, too.
posted by poe at 9:59 AM on September 11, 2010


I only watched part 1, so I didn't see the Telegraph part yet, but that road doesn't run through Detroit at all. Dearborn and Southfield, yes, but not Detroit itself.

Part one was interesting ("All these white kids are comin' in and takin' over"), but hipsters and artists and a few hotspot clubs aren't going to put any sort of significant income into the city's coffers. And maybe it's cool to live in an abadoned factory-turned-loft when you're 20-something, but what happens if you need an ambulance, or if your loft catches fire? There are almost zero city services left. Witness the 80-plus fires that swept through the Seven Mile/Van Dyke area earlier this week; fire crews from neighboring Warren and Harper Woods had to come in because Detroit didn't have enough equipment/manpower. Part of the cause of the fires was damaged DTE equipment and illegal hook-ups, which DTE never bothered to repair. My point is we periodically get these "feel optimistic" stories about Detroit, when the truth is that while a few isolated areas with trendy clubs and artist communes may provide bright spots on the overall landscape, they will never "revitalize" the city or change its downward financial spiral.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:21 AM on September 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


why did they just walk into Berry Gordy's house, and why was no one there? It's so bizarre

The Berry Gordy House (Motown Mansion) was unoccupied for two decades after B.G. left for L.A. in '69. Cynthia Reaves, a neighbor and long-time resident, bought the place from Gordy in 2001 and spent the next four years renovating the building. It's now used to host various civic-related functions.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:30 AM on September 11, 2010


I kind of feel like it's Little House on the Prairie for a certain generation. Whether that generation is 10 years down the line or right about now, I'm not sure. But it's one place you can look at and say, hey, if you have the drive, determination, and energy needed to scrape out your own kind of life from the ground up, go to Detroit. And of course there's problematic issues involving, say, the people who already live there, just like in Little House on the Prairie.
posted by redsparkler at 10:33 AM on September 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also…

"hipsters and artists and a few hotspot clubs aren't going to put any sort of significant income into the city's coffers"

The whole reason Detroit is Detroit is because of late-19th century do-it-yourself hipsters like Henry Ford, William Durant, Horace and John Dodge, James Packard, and Walter Chrysler building horseless carriages in rented workshops and warehouses. The same entrepreneurial spirit is at work today.

Don't underestimate the power of idealistic 20-somethings in large numbers. Especially when they have essentially unfettered access to huge manufacturing spaces for pennies. Detroit is like a giant idea incubator.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:50 AM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I only watched part 1, so I didn't see the Telegraph part yet, but that road doesn't run through Detroit at all. Dearborn and Southfield, yes, but not Detroit itself.


This is something I find really interesting. My mom grew up in Dearborn, my grandparents are both from Detroit proper: 5 Points, just off 8 Mile, right near Southfield; and Outer Drive and Finkle.

I grew up in Southeast Michigan, but I live in Marquette County, Michigan now. It's in the U.P., a eight hour trek northwest of Detroit, and six hours northeast of Chicago. (It takes about 10 hours to get to Atlanta from Detroit, by way of comparison.) Marquette is a college town, and we get a lot of kids from Chicago, and a somewhat lesser amount from the greater Detroit area. Many of them work with my husband and end up having dinner at our house, and I get to know them somewhat well. What I have noticed is this:

Me: "Where you from?"

College Kid: "Chicago."

Six months pass, and I find out the kid is actually from Evanston, or Oak Park, or Cicero. Or I might see a Wisconsin/Indiana plate on his/her car and say, "I thought you were from Chicago," and s/he will say, "Well, I'm from Kenosha/Hammond, and that's the Chicagoland area."

This NEVER happens with kids from SE MI.

Me: "Where you from?"

College Kid: "Allen Park." (Or Livonia. Or Redford. Or, or, or...)

Other College Kid: "Where's that?"

First Kid: "Near Detroit."

Nobody every says they're from a suburb. But kids from the Chicago suburbs use "Chicago" as a shorthand, and kids from the metro Detroit area NEVER do that.

I'm guilty of something similar, myself. If someone does say that they're from Detroit, my first response is, "Where at?" I suppose I don't do this with the Chicagoans because I'm less familiar with that city, but really, I think I'm looking for bona fides. I even called out a kid, once, when he said he was from Detroit, near Harpo's. "Harpo's is in Hamtramck!" was my immediate reply. Now, Hamtramck is to Detroit as Lesotho is to South Africa, and is just as gritty, decayed, and "real" as any part of Detroit, and yet I felt compelled to come at this kid.

I try not to do this any more. I think the petty regional division is part of how Detroit ended up in the mess it's in, and I think, subliminal or not, it's because of shame. I also think that the inner ring suburbs are just as fucked as the D, maybe more, and it's time to set that bad old stuff aside and try to get it together as a entire metro area.
posted by Leta at 11:14 AM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really liked this, Leta. Thanks. (I kinda resent the 'hipster' moniker - sticks a negative on it where I don't think it belongs - but I don't think it's a big deal.)
posted by koeselitz at 11:23 AM on September 11, 2010


Detroit is like a giant idea incubator.

That's the best I've heard anyone express what's going on in Detroit thus far in the thread, Civil_Disobedient. I grew up in the suburbs but have always (and still do) routinely hang in the city. I have friends that live there, and basically the feeling I get is that what's happening now (and has been happening for a while, really -- at least 7 or 8 years by my recollection) is the leading edge of some regrowth in the city. No, it's not going to go back to booming overnight, but something is definitely happening in a way that it wasn't 15 or 20 years ago.

If I had a need for a space to do my art or business, Detroit is the forehead-slappingly obvious place to obtain that kind of space for a song; I'm sure that's where I'd be living and working right now. However, I'm a software engineer, so I have no idea what I'd do with a 9 story building were it at my disposal.

I will note that this documentary draws some of its sunny temperament from being shot, well, in the sun; Detroit in the winter is a lot more bleak. Remember last year's frozen body?
posted by axiom at 11:24 AM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


My mom grew up in Dearborn, my grandparents are both from Detroit proper: 5 Points, just off 8 Mile, right near Southfield; and Outer Drive and Finkle.
Fenkell. Unofficially known as Five Mile Road.

I even called out a kid, once, when he said he was from Detroit, near Harpo's. "Harpo's is in Hamtramck!" was my immediate reply. Now, Hamtramck is to Detroit as Lesotho is to South Africa, and is just as gritty, decayed, and "real" as any part of Detroit, and yet I felt compelled to come at this kid.
Harpo's is located at Harper and Chalmers, on Detroit's far east side, some distance from Hamtrack.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:35 AM on September 11, 2010


Argh! Hamtramck, even.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:35 AM on September 11, 2010


koeselitz, I kinda like the word "hipster". I know I may be the only one, though, heh.

I think that maybe it will be the word that sticks around to describe hip, young people, since all the other adjectives immediately identify with an uber-specific subculture (punks, thugs, hippies, etc.)
posted by Leta at 11:37 AM on September 11, 2010


Okay, now I'm really confused. Because said kid agreed that he was, indeed from Hamtramck.

It's been ages since I've been to Harpo's, though, so I'll just defer to your authority.
posted by Leta at 11:39 AM on September 11, 2010


Can't help wondering how the old school residents will feel about the newcomers and the complexities of that relationship over the years to come.

Love The Whelk's humorous version of the trajectory.

In the early 1920's my grandfather, Wessel Smitter, a writer who came from a farm in Plainfield, Michigan, went to work for Ford in Detroit, doing the advertising in those early days after the invention of the car. Wes was pretty horrified by the dehumanizing impact of Ford's factory, men on a conveyor belt, the workers losing touch with a sense of who they were as people, losing their connection with their lives outside of the factory. When my grandad left Ford he wrote a book that was well known in its day, F. O. B. Detroit. An important element in the book was race and national relations among the factory workers.

Apparently, Ford was livid that the book cast a negative light on his automotive business and put pressure on his friends in Hollywood to make the movie version of the book, Reaching For the Sun, a lighthearted a romantic comedy, avoiding the gritty reality of factory life.

An interesting site discussing the history of race relations during "The Great Migration" to Detroit in the early part of the last century.

Maps of Detroit population history 1900 to 2000.

I know he'd get a huge kick that some old timers are hunting raccoons for their meat in Detroit. I think my grandfather's book, in some ways, predicted the downfall of Detroit and I think he would be very interested in the transition of Detroit from an abandoned motor city into some sort of new urban incarnation.
posted by nickyskye at 11:42 AM on September 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


Nobody ever says they're from a suburb. But kids from the Chicago suburbs use "Chicago" as a shorthand, and kids from the metro Detroit area NEVER do that.

....

I try not to do this any more. I think the petty regional division is part of how Detroit ended up in the mess it's in, and I think, subliminal or not, it's because of shame.


It's funny. Growing up in Ann Arbor, it was exactly the opposite situation. Kids I knew would go off to college and sort of flirt with the possibility of telling people they were "from Detroit" — and to them it was clearly a way of boasting, of claiming some sort of idealized toughness or realness that they were afraid they were missing. The Michigan folks I hung out with would call each other out on it, and it was definitely more like "Quit bragging!" than "Don't mention that shameful place."

If anything, it was shame over living in Ann Arbor. If I had to admit, in front of the whole world, that I came from someplace so dreadfully upper-middle-class and uncool, then I wasn't going to let any of my friends get away with hiding it.

Anyway, Ann Arbor is not Allen Park. I'm just amused by the contrast. Because thinking back, you're right, the kids I knew who grew up in the metro area never seemed to go through that "Oh, yeah, I'm from DETROIT" phase.

(And you know, for what it's worth, I do think there's an analogous situation in Chicago. Kids from out of town who go to U of C will get all excited about being like "Yeah, I live on the SOUTH SIDE." Whereas the students there who grew up in other parts of Chicago don't seem to play the same game.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:53 AM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


nebulawindphone, if I may be so bold, how old are you? Because I'm 32, and when I was a kid, being from Ann Arbor (or, ahem, "A2") was the HOTNESS. It was bragging rights in a bottle.
posted by Leta at 12:00 PM on September 11, 2010


Hah. I'm 28, and I can't imagine too much changed in those four years. It may just be differences between our social circles or whatever. I did hang out with a lot of rich kids who were ashamed of the fact. (Okay, I was one of those rich kids...) But for the Ann Arborites I knew in high school and college, being there was definitely not something to brag about.

In any case, though, I'm realizing that I missed the point of your post. Because when we did the whole "Dude, don't brag, you're not some tough guy, you're not from Detroit" thing, it still reinforced the idea that we were separate from the city and its problems were Not Our Problem. We were doing it out of some misplaced sense of awe, and not out of misplaced shame, but it still contributed to the splintered regional identity that you're talking about.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:12 PM on September 11, 2010


I think the real story here isn't "will Detroit turn around", so much as it is will young people, and future generations find new ways of living and interacting with the country they inherit? All this talk of sustainable living, and doing it yourself, and what have you. That can't ALL happen in Brooklyn.

There's this whole other America that simply doesn't fit into the modern idea of development. Detroit seems to me like the Capitol of America's dying places. Boarded up main streets, dying factory towns, empty subdivisions exist all over the country. If the idea that these spaces can be reclaimed not for corporate interest and industry but for human interest, and simply living, I see that as a good thing. Even if it doesn't revitalize the cities, it has the potential to revitalize the people, and that's a good thing.

The alternative is a nation full of Seattle clones, and as awesome as that is for corporations and money and "development" and ideas of urban renewal, it's a boring whitewashed yuppie paradise, and that's a much scarier future to me.
posted by billyfleetwood at 12:21 PM on September 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


That was interesting, thanks. I really liked parts 1 and 3, especially all the art houses in #3. I probably should have liked the second part more, which was mostly about all the great music that's come out of Detroit over the years, but I found the guy (not Knoxville, the musician guy) really annoying.

Favorite bit:

"About 5 years ago, I saw white women runnin' down the road. Used to be, you saw white women runnin', you wondered 'Who's chasin' 'em?' But then I realized, they joggin'..."
posted by mannequito at 12:54 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Okay, now I'm really confused. Because said kid agreed that he was, indeed from Hamtramck.
It's been ages since I've been to Harpo's, though, so I'll just defer to your authority.


I'm equally confused, because if he lived in Hamtramck then he certainly should've known that Harpo's was nowhere nearby (particulary if he used it as a reference point). I used to live near Harper/Cadieux, which was a bit north of Harpo's, and I used to work at I-94 and Mt. Elliott, which was maybe two miles east of Hamtramck, and I only wish the two points could've been closer all those mornings I was running late (and the boss was watching the clock).
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:28 PM on September 11, 2010


I've wondered why people don't buy entire city blocks in new york and do crazy shit with it. I mean, houses are going for $1 or something crazy like that. They ought to just past some kind of homestead act or something.
posted by empath at 2:48 PM on September 11, 2010


(sorry, don't know how i typed New York instead of Detroit. I meant detroit)
posted by empath at 2:49 PM on September 11, 2010


A lot of those properties have tax liens on them. If you bought the land from the owner, you'd become responsible for those unpaid property taxes. A lot of them, too, have buildings that are in such bad shape that you'd basically need to demolish them and start from scratch. You buy the land, you're the one paying for the demolition.

Now, the city can seize land and resell it if the owner runs up enough back taxes. But that takes a lot of administrative work — you need to identify the properties, do really thorough title searches, go through a bunch of steps in court, and so on. Often the owner has run off, and so you have to track them down, or at least try to. And you really don't want to skimp on this stuff, because you don't want to trample the rights of legitimate property owners. Detroit's had a hard time keeping up with all that, because the city government has so little money and so few employees. They've got a long history, too, of letting deserted buildings sit because it would cost too much to condemn them.

So there's a lot of land there that you really can't do anything with, unless you want to spend much more on it than it's really worth. Buying up a whole city block for a few K is a fun fantasy, but in practice that land would be a huge money pit and a source of endless headaches.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:11 PM on September 11, 2010


"They ought to just past some kind of homestead act or something."

My google-fu is failing me, but I read about a couple of towns/counties in Kansas that passed a "modern homestead act" to help bring in young families to dying towns, and it's been fairly successful.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:12 PM on September 11, 2010


I've wondered why people don't buy entire city blocks in new york and do crazy shit with it. I mean, houses are going for $1 or something crazy like that. They ought to just past some kind of homestead act or something.

And do what, exactly? If you move any sort of valuable equipment (be it a window air conditioner, or computer, or whatever) inside a $1 dwelling, you're going to have to protect it somehow, because the vandals (I'm not making this up) are stealing even the fire hydrants off the streets to sell for scrap metal. So that means alarm systems (which aren't much of a deterrent) and lots of ArmorGuard. And even though red-lining is officially illegal, just try to find a company willing to insure your home/car for a reasonable cost when your address is within the city limits. Much of the wiring and plumbing in those $1 homes isn't up to code, so there's also that expense. Of course, you could just rough it and live without electricity or running water, I suppose. If you want fresh meat or produce, you'll have to either make the trip to Eastern Market on Saturday or else trek out to the suburbs, because there are no chain grocery stores within the city limits, and the few Mom 'n Pop stores that are available usually carry only canned, pre-packaged and frozen staples.
posted by Oriole Adams at 3:16 PM on September 11, 2010


Yeah, Oriole Adams, I think empath's notion of "crazy shit" is pretty far from like, setting up a bunch of shiny-new homes for people who require proximity to chain grocery stores and air conditioning. It might include, however, continuing the urban farming that was shown in the video, and filling the buildings with people whose number one concerns are not air-conditioning, being up-to-code, or having insurance. Such as young people and artists, and people looking to create alternative lifestyles. That might not appeal to you, and at first it might not seem permanent. However, if these places are being regularly used then slow improvements will be inevitable. After a couple of years for example, they will probably have installed better electrical wiring (needed if you are running big dance club there). With time, better plumbing for the bathrooms. Little by little. It's pretty much exactly what happened with the squatter movement in Berlin, both in the former East and the former West. Old buildings were saved from demolition, and people lived in them without heat and water sometimes. But slowly the buildings were improved, and entire neighbourhoods were revitalised.
posted by molecicco at 3:29 PM on September 11, 2010


Yeah, many of the $1000 properties in Detroit have a hefty unpaid water bill attached to them. And back property taxes etc. Big pain in the ass. Actually the Wayne County Property Auction is coming up this next weekend and they are doing it online. I tried to bid on a property last time and I was turned away because they ran out of bidding paddles. What a joke. Most of the people that actually bought properties were out-of-towners buying into a new cycle of speculation.

I think the real turning point for Detroit will come when people begin to crowdsource redevelopment. There are tons and tons of huge large buildings that are dirt cheap. There is a project, Spaulding Court, on 12th Street that just finished a $2,000 Kickstarter. Their website is kind of sparse but I think that type of redevelopment could definitely be scaled up if enough people got interested.

PS There are good grocery stores within the city limits. Lots in SW Detroit (E&L supermercado, Honeybee Market). Some around the Wayne State area (Kim's produce). Not sure if Harbortown market is reopened but they are also not bad. There's also Mikes Fresh Market on 7 mile and Livernois and 7 mile and Gratiot, a little more blah than the others but basically as good as Kroger. Of course none of them can hold a candle to Eastern Market on a Saturday.
posted by ofthestrait at 3:31 PM on September 11, 2010


I've got it, the best way to re-vitalize Detroit. We fill it with vampires.

They don't need schools or most social systems, they're self-policing, and lack of supermarkets won't faze them one bit. I'm sure a lot of those old car-money mansions would appeal to a budding King Of The Night as a kind of starter Palace.
posted by The Whelk at 4:01 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I didn't see the Telegraph part yet, but that road doesn't run through Detroit at all.

Not quite. For about 2 1/2 miles in the northwest corner, it does. Five Points (which is west of Telegraph) is the boundary between Detroit and Redford Township north of Puritan (which is basically 5 1/2 Mile). I lived three blocks south of Eight Mile and two blocks west of Five Points for 12 years growing up.

(My dad wouldn't let me exchange my learner's permit for a proper driver's license until he was satisfied that I could confidently and competently drive a manual transmission on Telegraph Road. It was harrowing until I got the hang of it, which was a glorious moment.)
posted by timing at 4:17 PM on September 11, 2010


Plus, a strong Vampire community could patronize/cull a local music scene.
posted by The Whelk at 4:26 PM on September 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder how much the revitalization of Detroit depends on climate. Since I telecommute it is sort of an ideal scenario to daydream about buying a city block and building a "compound" but the local weather is pretty awful. Maybe in 15 years it will morph into the kind of temperate climate i grew up in.
posted by feloniousmonk at 5:50 PM on September 11, 2010


Serious question: Can you legally own a handun in the Detroit city limits? What about open carry laws?

Because if I could pack, Detroit does look like kind of an amazing place to live.
posted by bardic at 10:21 PM on September 11, 2010


Also, it seems like it would be genuinely irresponsible to raise a kid in Detroit if you had the means to live elsewhere. If they don't even have ambulance service I can't imagine what the public schools are like.
posted by bardic at 10:26 PM on September 11, 2010


This is really well done ... and changed my mind about the D. If I was 24, I'd go lookin for my 9-story building.
posted by Twang at 12:24 AM on September 12, 2010


Slow's isn't bad... I've been there twice and ordered as many different things as I could.

But, about half of the dishes pretty much sucked. So I guess you have to know what to order. Maybe I'm spoiled on good BBQ after moving from MI to Oakland, but the mark of a good BBQ place is the sides that they make. Slow's is decent, but overrated.

And not to say that the BBQ in Oakland is the best there is by any means - it doesn't matter where you're at, shit is either good or it isn't.
posted by Dokterrock at 1:36 AM on September 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Disparaging comments about Slow's aside...

Detroit has the best music scene in the US, hands down. There are so many bands, and everyone knows and supports each other, and there is a GREAT show every night of the week. It's unfortunate that Detroit (and the rest of Michigan) is geographically isolated due to the fact that it's not on the way to anywhere else. But, you will never find a more supportive community of amazingly talented musicians anywhere else. It is because of that previously mentioned isolation that all of these great artists are able to afford to live and work there - it is truly an amazing place to be right now, and it has been that way ever since I was lucky enough to familiarize myself with the city. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if I ended up in the D.
posted by Dokterrock at 1:52 AM on September 12, 2010


Berry Gordy wit a 40 gettin' papes oh lordy

This is all your fault.
posted by Eideteker at 6:52 AM on September 12, 2010


But, about half of the dishes pretty much sucked. So I guess you have to know what to order. Maybe I'm spoiled on good BBQ after moving from MI to Oakland, but the mark of a good BBQ place is the sides that they make. Slow's is decent, but overrated.

Try Mama's Place at Seven Mile and Greenfield. Outstanding side dishes, and some of the best fried chicken and catfish my Georgia-born husband has had since his beloved grandma died. When Mr. Adams and I still lived on the east side we loved the ribs at Milt's Gourmet Barbecue. The sides there are pretty good, too, even the cole slaw was very tasty and I'm not a huge slaw fan.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:48 AM on September 12, 2010


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