Detroit Overview

Bridge to Windsor
by Detroit artist
Lowell Boileau

Detroit, "MoTown", "Big D", is predominantly Afro-American; 'bout 77%. Some 1,000,000 folks reside here.
The larger Mega-Metropolis (about 5,000,000 souls,) encompasses the South-East area of Michigan. That includes Detroit proper, Pontiac, Ann Arbor and Windsor, Ontario.
If you looked at a satellite picture of Detroit and Windsor, you'd see a city on two sides of a large river with a bridge spanning the gap. To me and most of my friends, it's all one city.
The illusion that there are two separate cities is brought about by a bunch of men and women in funny uniforms who insist that you stop so they can ask you questions that's no business of theirs. If they get angry they put rubber gloves on. These folks are called border guards, and yes, you are entering another country (Canada/USA) just to get into another part of your town.

Inner Detroit

Hey man, welcome to the "Big D!" If you are a visiting stranger 'round these parts, and are entering Detroit proper by one of it's main highway arteries, your first impression might be that this is an unspectacular blue-collar town, surrounded by smoky, smelly, aging industries. This is indeed the case.
Various attempts at making the visitor feel that there is something more to this picture has created a legacy of renovation projects varying from "Trappers Ally" on Monroe Street to past Detroit City council endorsed slogans such as "Say nice things about Detroit", a slogan which to my mind had a desperate edge to it that seemed all too appropriate.

Gone now, but it was a great place to eat cheap food.

The Majestic Grill by David Kyte

Past attempts at beautification have had little or no root in community, resulting in small artificial, secluded areas that give the visitor that sense of 'blah' that is available almost anywhere in the vacuous consumer burbs of Western Civilization.
The cornerstone of this approach to renovation was an attempt to get the predominantly white multitudes that fled the city in the 60's and 70's to come back to Detroit.
Unfortunately, it seems that the vast majority of the white suburb population has not, and does not intend to visit the city they have left behind in their lifetime.
Detroit is in effect, a Third World city embedded in a First World suburban sprawl.
With notable exceptions, I find the majority of surrounding suburbs dull affairs and only venture to those domains if I absolutely have to.

Politically, Detroit is a besieged city. The State government which is based in Lansing has over the years become increasingly more unsympathetic and hostile to Detroit, despite the fact that it remains one of the densest populated areas of Michigan.
Due to dwindling income and funds, Detroit's public institutions are fighting continual rear-guard actions to maintain a shadow of functionality.

The average visitor in Detroit will be confined to the well guarded city center. (I'd still keep my eyes open if I were you.) A visitor might well stay at the Westin Hotel in the "Renaissance Center" , a monstrosity used as an example in a PBS "Nova" documentary on habitats - "....This construction says keep out!...."
While other cities have made their river fronts delightful places for public access and recreation, Detroit did not make it a priority. When the Renaissance Center was completed in 1977, a parking lot was the designers concept of river front usage. To do the city authorities justice, a notable attempt has since been made to make the river front friendly with the creation of Chene Park, a delightful hangout a stones throw away from the Medusa Cement Works.

There is little pretence of cultivating the arts here in Detroit. The wealthy cater for the most part to a supposedly superior exterior culture, stomping around in their own flowerbed. They cannot conceive that Detroit has a vibrant art scene which continues to exist despite a dearth of attention from city government or the rich.
In a nutshell, I'd say that the wealthiest of this city are interested in sports.

However, there is change in the air. Detroit has a new Mayor (Dennis Archer) and people seem on the whole more optimistic about their city. Much of that enthusiasm is due to the building of gambling casinos, a new Tiger baseball stadium so the wealthy can have exclusive boxes and the investors can rip the common man for even more money. The Lions football team is moving back to Detroit, leaving a perfectly good stadium behind in Pontiac.
I am told all this is progress of a sort. However, The mega-rich investors who are now cuddling up to Detroit so they can make big bucks have not shown the slightest interest in Detroit's cultural heritage; all we're getting from them is more mega-suburban blah smack dab in the center of the city.

Then there is the much heralded new casinos that are supposed to be constructed on the waterfront in the not too far future. Personally, I'm all for it for purely selfish reasons; I want to be able to rent a relatively cheep room overlooking the Detroit River and invite all my friends to party, and I'm told that - in conjunction with General Motors Motor Company - the casinos have agreed to create a public walk along the river from the Belle Isle bridge down to the Renaissance Center.
Who knows; perhaps the cultural enrichment of Detroit will come when the gold starts to pour into Detroit's coffers. Don't hold your breath.
Being a transplant from another country, people often ask me why I live here. My answer is that Detroit is my idea of paradise. These are my reasons: Cool people. Cool locations. Cool locations to hang out with cool people. And - for the most part - the cops leave you alone

What more could one want from life?
So what DOES one show an intrepid visitor who has taken the trouble to stumble into Detroit? How about a visit to one of the World's largest garbage incinerators that has been placed smack dab in the heart of the city? Or check out the best places for burnt out cars? Head to the Detroit main page and let's get started.