EVERY city likes to market its best side to the world, directing tourists to only the most picturesque and safest parts of the city.
In Detroit, Michigan, that is a little more difficult.
A once great and wealthy city, lauded by filmmakers as the “American Dream” in action, celebrated by musicians and writers and synonymous with the automotive industry.
But, the heyday of the American automobile industry has long passed and the city is in crisis.
It is as intriguing as it is heartbreaking.
But is there hope?
Booked.net visits this once mighty city.
There is an irony in the fact that the industry that built this city also broke it.
The car allowed for a migration away from the center to the suburbs that began in the 1950s as more and more skilled workers, engineers and members of the middle class sold their homes.
Real estate values began to plummet.
Since it was the most solvent members of the population that moved, the financial impact of this migration was soon felt. Jobs were lost, retailers, bankers, doctors and other professionals soon also vacated the centre to chase their clients to the ‘burbs.
That left only the poorest in the center – the unemployed, living on welfare or low-paid workers, mostly African-American population.
This socio-economic situation saw crime flourish and Detroit quickly gained notoriety as one of the most dangerous cities in the United States.
The racial upheavals of the sixties and the battle for black equality also impacted the city and culminated in July 1967, when confrontations between whites and blacks resulted in some of the most violent riots in US history, which lasted for five days, and became known as the 12th Street Riot.
In the ’70s the city would go from being sick to terminally ill.
In 1973 oil crisis erupted. It led to the bankruptcy of many US automakers, their cars which appealed to the American sense of “bigger is better” suddenly became gas-hungry, expensive and could no longer compete with economical Japanese brands. Plants one by one began to close, people lost their jobs and left Detroit. The population decreased from 1.8 million in early 1950 to 950,000 by the end of 1990.
Skyscrapers, factories, residential areas are abandoned and slowly being devoured by time and vandalism.
It leads to a curious mix. In Detroit, you can see a street with the brightly lit shop windows of expensive shops, but they face a building with broken windows, with scrubs and weeds springing from its walls as nature reclaims it.
Despite the general decline of Detroit, it is still the headquarters of General Motors, while, in the suburbs Dearborn is home to the headquarters of the Ford Motor Company, and in Auburn Hills – Chrysler.
Downtown, though sparsely populated, is relatively safe, and enjoys some life being the base for cultural and sports centers, as well as monuments of the past decade and continues to attract tourists.
However, several areas encircling downtown Detroit is ghetto and these margins are considered the most dangerous part of the city, home to rampant crime, gangs of robbers and a flourishing drug trade.
Compared to them, the dwellers of the one-story homes in suburban Detroit do relatively well: here live the workers, and their families, who left the main town in the 1950’s.
In addition, Detroit and the surrounding area is one of the main centers of population of Arab immigrants in the US. A department of the University of Michigan in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn recognises this and has a center for Arab-American Studies.
In the past decade the state government and the federal government has made moves to revive the city, especially its central part. One of the latest initiatives is the creation and construction of several casinos, which is expected to help strengthen the economy of Detroit.
Its pulse may be shallow and weak, but its heart is still beating.