Monday, July 02, 2007

Good things are happening

I've lived in Detroit a long, long time. I was born here, moved to the burbs, moved to Ohio, and finally settled here (with my family, obviously) in 1982. This August, it will be 25 years I have lived here, with brief breaks for school. I've never lived outside the city limits since.

Paul and I joke about my deep cynicsm regarding the city's progress. He'll come home from a meeting all upbeat about this transportation plan or that new retail devleopment, and I'll sigh and say "I've seen like five of these not happen over the years. I'll believe it when I am riding that high-speed rail down Woodward/walking to Starbucks/fending off profitable offers on our house."

In many ways, though, I am hugely optimistic about Detroit's future. It angers me when people deign to come down from the suburbs and turn up their noses because, apparently, it's not Chicago (to which I ask "Did you take a wrong turn at the lake or something? It's never been Chicago."). Or when people write off the entire city with a wave of their hand. Because see, things are changing here.

I've recently met some very cool families (See Sweet Juniper at right, for one) who are EXACTLY the kind of people we need here. They are all five or so years younger than me, and have decided to put down their roots here instead of one of the suburbs. These are bright, educated young families who have the luxury of choice and for various reasons have chosen the city. Just like they might in more celebrated places, they investigated neighborhoods and said "This is where it feels right for me to be." Instead of insulating themselves in suburbs where everyone else is likely to be white, middle class and educated just like them, they dove into the urban stew.

Detroit's certainly not the easiest place to raise a child, and as a reasonably economically secure two-parent family, we've got it better than most. But when things like this happen, how can you not love city life?

Or this--Maggie digs the Candy Band....

In my quarter century (JESUS JUMPING CHRIST) I have lived here, I've seen things go from shitty to kinda bad to worse. Now, it's pretty exciting to see new things rise, like the riverfront parks, that were never there before and that no amount of economic distress can take away. The naysayers can go back to Oakland County and stay there--this is a new Detroit. And I am really proud to be a part of it.


Summer said...

It's fun, isn't it, watching a city transform. From what I read about Detroit (which is pretty much you and Melissa of Suburban Bliss) it sounds like it's just a few years behind DC in the revitilization game. So who knows, maybe someday you too will wake up and realize that your home is now worth more than double what you paid for it....

apt said...

If we were going to move to the "east coast" from Grand Rapids, we'd live in the D.

Though I grew up north of 8 mile, I cheer on Detroit every chance I get. Thanks for this post.

portuguesa nova said...

Ohhh, I have so much to say about this but think the Junipers are about the greatest family ever for doing what they're doing and documenting it.

I am guilty of all the things that bug you about the Detroit naysayers. I'm forever whining about missing Chicago and marveling at the crapness of much of Detroit.

When we moved here from Chicago, however, we seriously considered living in Detroit (in those new "loft" condos by Comerica) even though the only one who earns any money in our family works in Jackson. Detroit is such a strange city because it is such a flaming pile of poo in so many ways, but it is so gorgeous in so many other ways.

We changed our minds because of the condition of the roads and the commute time mostly, but in defensive of my bad attitude, every single time...and I mean each and every single time without exception that we have been outside of our vehicle in the city of Detroit, I have been accosted by crazies in such a way that I feel scared (whether justified or not...and certainly more often unjustifiably).

I was accosted by crazies while living in Chicago at roughly the same rate, but it was typically on very crowded streets or trains or buses and thus I rarely got that scary-nervous-system-kicking-in feeling.

Perhaps I'm an anomoly, but I just couldn't do it.

But, oh how I hope Detroit can come back to life. This may not be the best comparison, but I think about Pittsburgh when I think about Detroit. I know it's smaller and in an entirely differet part of the country economically, but it survived post-industrialism and is a fabulous place. Same with Milwaukee which is teeny tiny in comparison, but so lovely in the same raw, unpretentious way.

Oooh, also, could you send me the name of your church before I forget?

Em said...

Hey Amy! I live in Grand Rapids and I can totally relate to the things you are saying about Detroit. Grand Rapids is one of those 'on the rise' cities too. Many people are choosing to live downtown, instead of the burbs' is to hoping that the progressive attitude continues on your side of the state as well as mine. It can only make this wonderful state we call home, that much better!

Dutch said...

Well said! I can understand the cynicism, but if you look at other huge formerly depressed downtowns around the country, particularly those with riverfronts, in each case there has been a population willing to gentrify them. san francisco and new york and now even chicago are just too fucking expensive to buy real estate in. I don't consider what we are doing gentrification---our neighborhood hasn't changed in 50 years---but I think detroit will gentrify the same way, say, philadelphia has.

espresso bean said...

Nice to meet you Amy! I'm a Michigander too!

And we LOVE Detroit! :o)