Let me start this tour of the city with a confession. Despite being a lifelong Midwesterner and veteran travel writer, I avoided Detroit. I expected to be depressed by seeing a once-grand place battered by economic disinvestment. I finally made the trip two years ago, and witnessed scenes of abandonment and decay that almost broke my heart–but also examples of perseverance and creativity that stirred my soul.
Shortly afterwards, I got connected to the Detroit Revitalization Fellowship Project at Wayne State University, which tapped 29 young professionals from across the U.S. to become part of organizations working to revive the city. The project–funded by the Kresge Foundation, Ford Foundation, Hudson-Webber Foundation and the Skillman Foundation–is part of an unprecedented philanthropic effort to reinvigorate Detroit.
Seeing Detroit through the Fellows’ eyes–both Motor City natives and newcomers eagerly exploring what’s here–I got an up-close look at a city that has fallen farther than any other but is now waging an exciting comeback.
“No city has gone through what Detroit has gone through. But that leaves the door wide open to do new things,” says Fellow Matteo Passalacqua, an urban planner working with the North End’s Vanguard Community Development Corporation to rehab housing on the city’s beleaguered to develop mixed-use real estate projects and live/work spaces for young entrepreneurs.
Surprises abound, beginning with the fact that you can actually see a lot of the Motor City comfortably on foot. Woodward Avenue offers an intriguing urban promenade covering two miles between Midtown and Downtown–the nuclei of Detroit’s revitalization.
Home to Wayne State University and the Detroit Institute of Arts, Midtown is a haven for the young and the hip who congregate for housebrewed ales at the Motor City Brewing Works and Traffic Jam, scones at the Avalon International Breads, coffee, beer or wine at the newly-opened Great Lakes….PLEASE READ MORE.
Article Author | Jay Walljasper, a former travel editor at Better Homes & Gardens and contributing editor to National Geographic Traveler, chronicles urban life around the world. Check out his website.