Is the comeback of Detroit actually happening, or is it a pipe dream? Ben Austen of the New York Times is trying to answer just that.
An in-depth article titled "The Post-Post-Apocalyptic Detroit" touches on the growing real estate empire of Bedrock's Dan Gilbert, and also on small businesses around Detroit, like Slow's owner Phil Cooley. The article is a comprehensive look at the various plans and theories underway to revive Detroit.
"Gilbert believes in Detroit, not just as a partisan local booster but in his bones as a businessman. And his belief has a perverse sort of economic logic undergirding it...The belief in Detroit’s imminent revival has spread far beyond Dan Gilbert and the skyscrapers of downtown. Out in the neighborhoods, there is a legion of mini-Gilberts, longtime Detroiters and recent transplants alike, who have united around a conviction that the city has fallen as far as it can go — that the time to buy in is at hand. Just a couple of years after Detroit slid into what the national news media incessantly called a “post-apocalyptic” collapse, the city now teems with a post-post-apocalyptic optimism."
The article takes on the question many of us are asking: is the revival of Detroit really underway? According to Ben Austen, the answer is "maybe".
"While wandering around downtown, I dropped into a coffee shop, the Urban Bean Company, to ask for directions. It is in a narrow wedge of a building opposite Capitol Park. It sells locally sourced coffee and food; upstairs, amid a sliver of seats, patrons can spin electronic-music records on a turntable. Save for the two owners, though, the place was empty. Ed Siegel sat with his elbows on the counter. He told me he had worked at a New York office of Moody’s, in commercial mortgage-backed securities. Two years ago, he visited Detroit and drove the length of Woodward Avenue, from downtown to 8 Mile Road. He was so sure he was seeing a city poised for rebound that he moved permanently. His partner in the venture, Josh Greenwood, who left a Chrysler truck-assembly plant after a decade on the line, leaned against a wall with his eyes closed, nursing a sore back. He opened the coffee shop initially in 2000, thinking the area was already on the mend, but he had to shut it down during the mortgage-foreclosure mess. Last year, with all Gilbert was planning for Capitol Park — “downtown’s hidden jewel,” Rock Ventures branded it — he figured it was time to start again."
"But even there, just two blocks from Gilbert’s Qube, the revival has yet to arrive. The park’s small triangle of grass is still cramped with homeless people and surrounded by walls covered in graffiti. Empty buildings are everywhere. Across the street from Urban Bean, a fire had recently transformed a strip club called the Grind into a blackened husk. The countless small businesses, the swarm of nonprofit groups and pop-up retail, the transplanted young techies and artists, the widespread investment in real estate snatched up at thrift-store prices — for all of that, the new Detroit remains more an idea on paper than a coalescing future. Dan Gilbert has faith: This spring, he bought eight more properties. But he has plenty of money to lose on his conviction, whereas Greenwood and Siegel do not. They got in on what looked like the ground floor, and now they are praying that it truly was the bottom."
“Sitting here, waiting, it’s the hardest part,” Siegel said, twitching with nervous laughter."