Friday, January 10, 2014

Detroit - a New Kind of City

BuzzFeed posted an amazing article today written by a kid who decided to stick around Detroit after college and invest. Drew Philip paints a unique insider's look at America's lost city, a place that's captured our fascination for its blight, decline, and unrivalled corruption, and show's us why Detroit might not be as lost as it seems to those who criticize from their desks in New York and San Francisco, too afraid or disinterested to actually venture to Motor City.

It's a long read, well worth it, and I'll let it speak for itself. Philip shows us the ups and downs of his adopted city, and the beauty found in its grit. But perhaps the most interesting question his article posits is in the way he asks what we all ask of Detroit: What's next?

While the city is far from experiencing any sort of renaissance, the media's love affair with it has driven outpriced refugees from boomtowns around the country to explore Detroit's bargain basement real estate. Companies are even looking to Detroit for its affordable talent from nearby universities.

Drew Philip -

But Philip describes a new city. Did New York, San Francisco, and DC actually win the war on poverty, crime, and blight, or did they trade their ills for new ones? The urban success stories in America are false beacons of aspiration. Crime has been relocated to the boroughs and suburbs, a middle class can't exist, and those who don't make six figures are relegated to places like Oakland and indentured to rent, unable to enjoy the exciting cities they chose. There comes a point in many who question, "Why am I here?" If you've been pushed to Queens you might as well live in Pittsburgh.

Detroit, a blank slate, is in the unique position to become a new kind of city, and that's what has happened amongst those who weathered its worst. While a slow creep of transplants downtown have brought their Whole Foods baggage, along with the transformative model that turned Manhattan into Disney World right down to the price tag, the most collateral of damage in Detroit has created a post apocalyptic city that looks like anything but Thunderdome. Out of lawlessness, an organic sense of civic responsibility reigns over neighborhoods that the city no longer services. Once densely packed turn of the century homes now sparsely dot the city's blocks, in their place are orchards, wheat fields, and chicken coups.

As the city contemplates the unprecedented "right sizing," an effort to abandon neighborhoods beyond downtown and shrink the city's limits, those forgotten neighborhoods are modeling a new kind of American city that's worth a second look.

Why I Bought a House in Detroit for $500

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