The Real Detroit

I love Detroit, I hate Detroit. It continues to inspire me, yet also continues to bum me out in a new way. Ask anyone who lives here and it is a love-hate relationship. We all have pride for our city, but it isn't perfect and it won't be for some time (to say the least).

For this post, I contemplated for weeks just what to write about. Lately the city has pushed me into a depression. Not one due to a personal experience, but in terms of hope and the state Detroit is in. One local newspaper is running a series on how the murder rate has remained at an epidemic level for about a decade.

An interactive map shows the city limits in light blue, the dots representing the murders since 2003. We as a society have come to accept these murders, with many in our neighborhoods used to the sound of gunfire and the sight of make-shift memorials on every corner. I digress; I am really pulled into the city for its great stock of architecture.

A little building at 16th Street and Buchanan was recently set on fire, and though it was minor, it was cut wide open by fire crews needing to get in to ventilate the structure. Upon driving by last week, I took the opportunity to see the interior. The first floor was largely collapsed, but the cast-iron façade was as beautiful as ever.

Two days later the arsonist came back and the building was done. Insensitivity came back into my head again. Detroit Firefighters respond to an average of 30,000 a year; many are due to arson. Why? This beautiful building baring "Chas W. Hausherr" was a sign of a beautiful storied past for most, and yet someone felt the need to burn it down.

It is a very puzzling city I live in, but that is what makes it interesting. The downward spiral seems inevitable and now the city is facing an "emergency financial manager," which I am honestly looking forward to. I feel one of the greatest issues facing this city is that the people who live here deny that there is any problem and that Detroit is on the rebound.

To have anyone deny that the city's unions and the finances are all in line must not be reading the news about the nepotism and shady dealings. I have a feeling there is no efficiency in our government, like the high ratio of citizens to city workers, and the amount of police officers working in desk jobs.

Beyond the simple issue of government, we seem to have a lot of people moving here thinking this city is a dreamland, for urban gardening, or art, or whatnot. I think people need to realize that while art and urban gardening are great things (which I do support), they are not single-handedly going to save the city, and neither is renovation the David Broderick Tower.

I can't tell you have many times I have heard people say "Look they are renovating the Broderick Tower. Detroit is rising!," when sadly it couldn't be any further from the truth. Again, I am totally "pro-restoration" whenever possible, but my friends and I ask each other when we hear that: "Do they know that Detroit is not just limited to downtown or midtown? That beyond the two miles of it there are 136 more square miles? That Engine 50 at Gratiot & Houston-Whitter just responded to two fires within an hour? I am all for hope, but I think realism is what is important.

In the end I wouldn't say I am an optimist or a pessimist. I am realist when it comes to anything. I really would love to see all these buildings and houses be renovated, but I drive by the same area a month later and it is significantly worse. Buildings are ripped apart and unsecured for every ounce of copper, another one is suddenly burned, and gang graffiti covers another.

A luscious urban garden is made one year; a year later it is deserted with weeds growing through the planter boxes. An old depressed man slowly wanders on the 12 acre dirt lot that was once his alma mater -- the seven-story imposing Cass Technical High School.

What have we become, what will we become?