By Leon Kaye
After visiting Detroit for the first time in 17 years, my first jarring impression of the city was the silence. Wide boulevards approaching downtown Detroit were bereft of cars. Once stately neighbourhoods laden with enormous houses emitted no sounds except for my footsteps. What was once the roaring Motor City, it seemed to me, had been reduced to a mumble.
But that initial snapshot belies what is occurring at the grassroots as Detroit's people work hard not only to survive, but to revive their city and even thrive. The hurdles are enormous. Automakers will always be part Detroit's fabric, but not as the reliable economic and jobs engine that they had been for a century. And for a city that has lost more than one million residents since 1950, the leadership has decided that demolition and deconstruction are behind the city's survival. To that end, 10,000 homes are to be torn down in the coming years.
Nevertheless, there is more than just demolition in Detroit. Families who have lived there for generations, as well as recent transplants, are taking back their city with their own hands. Old Detroit still offers a stunning collection of art deco architecture, a museum with a billion-dollar art collection, and a solid manufacturing infrastructure.
Now, all of it will be embedded in an environment that offers both the urban and the rural. And it is the rural, built with those determined hands, that could change our conceptions of what a city is. Detroit will be model for ageing cities and towns looking for a redefinition. READ MORE >>