Although I grew up in Traverse City, there were five years that I lived in the Detroit area just before and just after we were married, 1987- 92. By then, Detroit had lost the first-place position of murder capital of the nation, mostly due to the mass exodus of people moving to the suburbs, not by any apathy of the criminals. Joan and I would venture down periodically to see a show at the Fox Theater or other destinations but would never spend any time there. I gave up on the city long before we moved back to Traverse City.
A friend of mine (let’s call him “Brad”) was tired of hearing me bad mouth the city that he grew up loving and tried to convince me that it is coming around once again. He told me of all the projects that were happening and life that was being breathed back into the city like a patient receiving CPR. I humored him by paying attention but still wasn’t convinced. Well, a few years ago he and his wife set out to prove me wrong and took us for a weekend downtown. We stayed at the Book Cadillac, walked to dinner, and then walked to Tiger Stadium to watch the game. Get this, we walked back to the hotel after the game. I never felt unsafe or in danger at any time. The next morning, we went to Eastern Market and I flashed back decades from when I was a little boy hanging on to my Romanian immigrant grandmother’s hand as best I could as she shopped for meats and produce. Although the freshly butchered animals no longer hung from hooks, I remembered that place very vividly.
I thanked my friend for reintroducing me to Detroit and it has been on my radar ever since. I enjoy reading up on new developments in the city and how new projects are drawing more and more people back in to the city. I would have never believed it if I hadn’t seen it.
A few weekends ago, Joan and I returned to the city and stayed in the brand new Shinola hotel which is nestled on Woodward avenue directly across the street from the former JL Hudson’s’ store. I have memories of Christmas shopping there when I was a kid. Hudson’s is long gone but in its place lives the promise of a very ambitious skyscraper.
We walked, took the people mover, rode the Q-Line and took Uber to get around and had an amazing time. The people we met were friendly, helpful and filled with the optimism of the great renaissance of this once triumphant city formerly known as the Paris of the Midwest. As we walked towards our dinner destination along a formerly desolate stretch of Woodward Avenue, I was struck by how much change had occurred in the last 30 years. I mentioned to Joan that if she had told me thirty years ago, we would one day be walking this stretch of road, at night, to a fancy dinner, I would have sooner believed that I would have been walking on the moon. I am happy for surprises to the upside and I am happy for the progress being made in the city of Detroit.
If you haven’t been in a few decades, it is time to go see for yourself. You won’t be disappointed. Although I am no expert (that would be Brad) I would be happy to give you any recommendations that I can pass on.