Monday, June 6, 2011

Detroit as a travel destination? The New York Times, BBC, and Financial Times think so

In my previous Buzz about Detroit from Model D Media post, I noted:
Nearly all of my most popular articles here seem to the ones in which I comment on a New York Times article about how Detroit and its suburbs are dealing with contraction. This one fits that mold, except that it's more optimistic.
That seems to be the theme for nearly all the articles from Model D Media's Buzz page. Of course, one should expect that from a publication whose Twitter profile states:
We love Detroit. We write about Detroit. We photograph Detroit. We film Detroit. We want you to love Detroit, too.
...And whose attitude I characterized as "Optimism but not business as usual." They're certainly living up to both my billing and their own.

This week, I present three articles that protray Detroit, not as a disaster and not as a place being reborn from its ashes, but as a phoenix worth visiting. No, I'm not kidding. Detroit is now a place for the adventurous to visit and settle in.

The first article comes from the New York Times and describes a whirlwind weekend tour through the attractions of the city.

36 Hours in Detroit
Published: May 5, 2011
DESPITE recent news stories of a population exodus from Detroit, there are many reasons to make a pilgrimage to this struggling city right now — and not just because Eminem’s slick Super Bowl commercial showcased the inner strength of the Motor City. No video can portray the passion one finds on the streets of Detroit these days, where everyone from the doorman to the D.J. will tell you they believe in this city’s future. While certain areas are indeed eerily empty, other neighborhoods — including midtown, downtown and Corktown — are bustling with new businesses that range from creperies and barbecue joints catering to the young artists and entrepreneurs migrating to Motown, to a just-opened hostel that invites tourists to explore Detroit with the aid of local volunteer guides. In the historic Brush Park district, architecture buffs will find some lovely refurbished houses, and along Woodward Avenue, restored film palaces are a wonderful reminder that this city’s storied past includes not just automobiles, but also the entertainment industry. No urban enthusiast will want to miss the recovery that Detroit is now attempting.
As I've written before, this place is not ready to die yet, and is picking itself up after hitting bottom. Also, I'm used to Detroit being the place that even New Yorkers are scared of. Having them find the place inspirational is a pleasant change of pace. Oh, and this was a travel article. Not only are they finding Detroit inspirational, they're finding it fun!

Speaking of people recommending Detroit as an interesting travel destination, the BBC got into the act the week after the New York Times.

The rebirth of Detroit amid modern-day ruins
In Arts & Architecture 09 May 2011 | By Brad Cohen
As Detroit continues the fight of its life, artists and visionaries are slowly returning to the city to take advantage of the cheap rent and open spaces. While some have compared Detroit to a war zone, its burgeoning artistic community looks at it like a playground.

"I see the magic here. This city has been known to come back," artist Tyree Guyton said. "There's this new energy that's creating art all over the city. [A colleague] said in the past that the new industry in the city of Detroit is art and culture. I believe it. I see it."
"I like what's going on in Detroit right now. There's a great movement," Guyton said. "It's a very exciting time, and those who understand that and see it, they come."
I keep saying that exciting things are happening here, and I wouldn't miss them for the world. As you can see, I'm not alone. Not only is Tyree Guyton saying it, so is Frannie Shepherd-Bates, artistic director of the Magenta Giraffe Theatre.
"The economic downturn here has presented a blank canvas to us because we can create whatever we want here, because we've got nothing to lose," she said. "More artists are staying here or they come back here after they graduate. All of these new theatre companies are popping up, so there's more work available then there was before."
Welcome to Detroit, Ground Zero of the Post-Industrial Future--and a trendy travel destination!

Finally, the Financial Times is seeing the same things the BBC and New York Times did.

Motown’s optimistic tune
By Phyllis Richardson
Published: May 13 2011 22:00
[T]his is the city that moved the world, giving birth to the assembly-line method of car manufacturing and to the music that reverberated around the globe from Motown. Today, public transport is almost nonexistent and services are problematic. However, the city is beginning to project different images: the familiar plots of abandoned houses are evolving, in some areas, into the largest spread of urban gardening the country has seen. A new generation of artists and other creative entrepreneurs are turning some of the derelict buildings into studios, theatres and restaurants. Such investment is still small and independent, but driving around the Cultural Center, just beyond downtown, it’s easy to spot a trendy cafĂ© here, a new design boutique there, among the boarded-up premises. And, 40 years after the infamous race riots, the city is being praised as a place of increasing racial harmony.
There's more, including the real estate opportunities available. Yeah, the Financial Times is very much Business as Usual. I much prefer I much prefer Model D's take.
Detroit's affordable real estate, diverse architectural styles and urban leadership won high praise from the Financial Times, with an article that digs deeper than statistics to interview several residents who couldn't be more optimistic about the city's progress. And though prices are still low around the city, one local real estate expert says the housing market is finally moving upward again.
There is room to be optimistic, but these are not Business as Usual times. After all, what's the future being portrayed in all of the articles I highlighted this week and last? Art and agriculture, exactly what one would expect in "A World Made by Hand."


  1. There is always something special and beautiful in every place. We just have to see past it's inconveniences to appreciate it. Detroit is not an exception.

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    1. Well, spammer, that original comment was nice and on topic enough that I'm going to let it live.