You’ve seen the pictures. Detroit’s collapse needs no explanation. The city’s not the cleanest. It’s not the safest. It’s not pretty. It’s gritty. Outsiders focus on the murder rate and bankruptcy, continuing to denigrate the city that kept America moving for so long. But beneath the trauma exists a movement to dust off the city’s “rust” from “Rust Belt” and ready the city for renaissance.
1. Detroit is for foodies.
This year, restaurant reviewers at Zagat ranked Detroit third on America’s “next hot food cities.” Beyond the insanely famous Coney’s to Detroit-style pizza, Slows Bar BQ, Mercury Burger Bar, and Green Dot Stables have all made culinary waves. There’s also classy, craft cocktails at Sugar House and the city’s newly opened distillery Two James Spirits. It seems like every week a new, hot bar or restaurant is opening, and it’s shaping the city into a culinary mecca.
2. You can see world-renown art for a fraction of the price.
Remember when Detroit declared bankruptcy a few years ago? The city could have avoided the predicament if the city agreed to empty its art collection in the DIA. The city refused. That’s how important art is to Detroiters. The Detroit Institute of Arts ($8 admission) houses an impressive collection of works from van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Picasso, but nothing is more impressive than Diego Rivera’s factory frescoes, a world-class interpretation of Detroit during its heyday.
3. And you can see the next generation of artists for free.
Since the city went into decline, cheap rents opened the doors to a flood of artists. Some compare it to SoHo in the ‘70s, and even NYC claims Detroit as the city’s next trendy borough. Here, you have the Heidelberg Project (on Heidelberg Street on the city’s east side) which is a massive two-block art installation. The MoCAD (contemporary art museum) has earned international acclaim. And Third Thursday features sixty-two stores, cafes, and galleries showcasing the works of local artists on every “third Thursday” of the month.
4. Did we mentioned how cheap it is to buy a house?
Last year, Detroit auctioned off incredible, old homes for $1,000. The catch? You just had to fix it and live in it. Not too hard. There’s still the occasional home for sale under $500. The supposed minimum salary needed to afford a home in the city is just $35,600. Not too bad considering housing prices are higher in almost every other major city in the United States.
5. Detroit’s surrounded by the great outdoors.
Every city requires a respite from the city itself. Detroit has that and more. While Michigan’s Great Lakes and coniferous ecology attract sunbathers and hikers from across the Midwest (Michigan was voted best state in the US), Detroit city-proper has a place called Belle Isle, a small island in the middle of the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor, Canada. Visitors can stroll along the scenic paths, enjoying, simultaneously, views of the RenCen and prancing Bambies. Also situated on the island are botanical gardens, greenhouses, and a lily pond that’d inspire Monet. There’s even a palm tree. Oh, it’s all free by the way.
6. Detroit’s for doers and explorers.
The most startling experience in Detroit is the drive into the city. You’re met with prairie-like fields, plotted with crumbling houses. It’s surreal, untamed, and largely uninhabited. Feel like riding a dirt bike though a ruinous factory? Who’s gonna stop you? Feel like cultivating farm in the middle of ho-hum ‘hood? Yeah, go right ahead. They say the U.S. is a place where you can “do anything,” and nowhere is that more evident than Detroit.
7. Detroit is still the sound of America.
Whether it be the hum-ho in the Ford plants or the soulful Motown rhythms, Detroit reverberates the sounds of America’s conscience. It’s a workman city. It’s a city with a do-it-yourself attitude. It’s a prideful city that doesn’t give a s*** what anybody thinks. Go ahead, call it a pit. Call it a wasteland. Tell us we should burn the city and start again. In our minds, it’s Detroit vs. Everybody, and we’re here to keep this country moving.