As we progress through college, the question of what we are going to do after our years of structured endeavors come to an end begins to surface. Some will stay. The more adventurous will travel the world, but many will try to build their own name in a new city. The hot spots are typically New York, L.A., Philly, Chicago, or the ever intern friendly Washington D.C., but what about Detroit? No doubt The City has seen better days, but I don’t think it should be disregarded as a desirable destination for fresh graduates.
This semester I am enrolled in a course about Detroit. In these first few short weeks I have learned more and seen more of the city than I had my entire life. Through class and a tour of Detroit I was struck not only by its wreckage, but also by its character.
As many U of M students know, a drive through Detroit gives as many good views of vacant lots as it does of buildings. Detroit is built around a mobility that has cost it its city feel. The population of automobiles dominates that of people and its expanses seem more sub-urban than urban. However, the city is not dead. Mixed into the decay are pockets of activity, development, and even growth. On the west side, Mexican Town is growing and becoming a vibrant cultural center for Hispanic immigrants. Hamtramck, on the upper east side, is also alive and flourishing. There is an increasing number of public and private efforts to make the emptiness a little more beautiful through artistic expression. All are examples of communities and people, unified over the fall of their city, creating cultural enclaves where hope for Detroit’s future dwells. They drive a sense that things can’t get worse so you might as well start making things better anyway you can. That vision paves the way for a new generation to remake the city.
Sure, Detroit is not a great place to live, but I believe the chance to redefine a city while defining yourself is a remarkably tempting idea. Rent prices aren’t bad either. For a generation whose story will be defined by how they deal with the issues of the last century, Detroit is not a bad place to consider starting.
(Photo by ka_tate under a Creative Commons license)