Michigan ELGL on Detroit: The Lifer

This mini-series is produced by the Michigan chapter of ELGL and is in response to a recent ELGL post declaring: “Detroit is Dying. Does This Country Give a Damn?” The article hit a nerve with a handful of active Mitten State ELGL members.  

Sure, Detroit and its history is no stranger to scrutiny from the media, public and tourists. But Michigan ELGL wants you to look past the easy condemnation of this great city and proliferation of “ruin porn.” There is a vibrant, active, caring community working to rebuild and bring Detroit back to life. We believe, that as local government professionals, we should be championing those working to make cities better.

The mini-series features three columns: “The Ex-Pat” by John McCarter (Pearland, TX and formerly Novi, MI), “The Transplant” by Bridget Doyle (Sterling Heights, MI) and “The Lifer” by Amanda Thomas (Sterling Heights, MI). We welcome additional input from Michigan ELGL and others.


We Give a Damn about Detroit: The Lifer


By Amanda ThomasLinkedIn and Twitter

I attended school and got my undergraduate degree from a university in Midtown, Detroit. I grew up attending Detroit sporting events and going to Detroit museums. Though I’ve never lived in the City, I have seen my fair share of it, the good and the bad.

Some of Detroit’s outer neighborhoods are rough.They are run-down, burned down, overgrown, or just vacant. Yes, there are areas of the City that look like a bomb recently went off. There are areas I would go miles out of my way not to drive through. There are rumors that EMS won’t even respond to calls in certain neighborhoods unless they have a police escort.

But then there is Campus Martius (and please click these links to learn more). And Corktown. And Midtown (home of my alma mater, Wayne State University). Detroit’s Riverfront offers a plethora of outdoor activities. I love the views from the top of the Renaissance Center. Every summer I take in a few games at Comerica Park, visit the Detroit Institute of Arts, detroit-loveand shop at Eastern Market. I bet some would be surprised at the high rent and low vacancy rates for apartments in downtown Detroit. Visit any one of these areas in the City and you will see that popular sweeping generalizations about Detroit being in ruins are wrong.

There is definitely a resurgence happening in Detroit, but the City won’t be cured of all of its ills next month, next year, or even in the next ten years. There will always be crime and poverty, but that is not a Detroit problem. That is a city problem, one seen in the majority of older cities throughout the world and especially in Midwestern manufacturing cities that have experienced dramatic decline in the industries that once brought to life the now vacant streets.

It is a mistake to simply pick out all of the bad qualities of Detroit (or any place) and ignore the abundance of good things going on. Detroit is surviving and evolving. It is fascinating to witness and experience. I discover something new every time I am downtown.

So please, say nice things about Detroit.