In the wake of Detroit’s bankruptcy filing last week, I’ve seen people posting on Facebook and writing in publications about how sad it is that the Motor City is “dying” a slow death of destruction, decay and abandonment.
I’m just not convinced. Yes, it’s true that when my dad and I drove through his three childhood neighborhoods a few years ago, two out of his three homes were gone, green long grass growing in their place on vacant lots. While sad, I didn’t see it as the death of a city. I prefer to call this an “evolution,” an idea I gleaned about a decade ago, from a fantastic Harper’s article about Detroit’s change from bustling metropolis to empty fields.
I’m 42 years old and for as long as I can remember, people have lamented the condition of my city. I was born after the riots of the 1960s that inspired white flight to the ‘burbs, so I don’t remember the glory days of Detroit.
I do remember shopping at the old massive Hudson’s building with my grandmother. I remember when that building was demolished. I remember concerts and hockey games in the heart of the city. And I remember wishing my city was more like a New York or Chicago, without really seeing the specialness of my city as unique.
In my 20s, I lived in New York and Washington, D.C., before returning home to the Midwest, and the main reason I came back was because the big bustling frenetic cities were just not for me. I wanted something in between busy packed expensive city and teeny tiny town in the middle of nowhere.
So Detroit was a perfect home to claim when I became an adult. With its provincial friendliness, the Motor City is somewhere in the middle.
Last week, a business decision was made to try to save the economics of this city. So what? Plenty of bankruptcies happen so that people or entities or, yes, cities can restructure and regain their footing. Something HAD to be done. The city has been spiraling out of financial sense for years.
But it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to just pack up and leave it a ghost town. We still have business and people and an energy teeming throughout this town. We have to make it workable and this was apparently the way to do it. Or at least try.
I’m here to say that those of us who call the Motor City home – and keep in mind, I live in Southfield, a suburb just north of the city limits, and yet I say I live in Detroit – we aren’t planning to leave. We live and work here, I love living here, raising my family here, and there has to be a solution. And yes, I go downtown regularly – with my kids and by myself.
Detroit doesn’t scare me. And I don’t think there’s a better place to live that’s all perfect and gleaming and shiny.
As much as there is fiscal irresponsibility and abandoned buildings and empty lots where once stood teeming neighborhoods, there is also an energizing rebirth happening. So many millennials and entrepreneurs and optimistic business folks are working to remake the image of Detroit and introduce a whole new way to look at this place.
It’s a different turn to the story. New details. An ending that hasn’t been written yet.
Or perhaps no ending at all.
Stage 2. (or 3, or 333…) A next stage, built on a foundation of optimism and hard work.
Don’t peek behind the curtain. It’s far better when what comes next is a glorious, sunny surprise.