Architectural Rejuvenation at the Inn on Ferry Street
During the 1950s and 1960s an extensive network of highways was constructed in Detroit which made it easier for people to commute and move into the suburbs. Poor housing conditions, economic factors and police prejudice against African-Americans led to another devastating race riot in 1967. This event together with school desegregation led to white flight, a demographic trend where working and middle-class white people moved into the suburbs. Large numbers of jobs also relocated into the outskirts, and as a result, Detroit’s tax base eroded and its population declined from about 1.8 million in 1950 to around 900,000 today. Large tracts of housing were simply abandoned as people moved away from the city.
One of the many beautiful bathrooms at the Inn on Ferry Street
The gasoline crisis of the 1970s also impacted the Detroit auto industry while the city was increasingly afflicted by the heroin and crack cocaine trade during the 1980s. Many of the abandoned houses had become crack houses and havens for drug dealers. The city responded by demolishing countless buildings, leaving behind large swaths of vacant land, often referred to as “urban prairies”. Demolitions are still continuing today and some parts of the city are marred by large numbers of abandoned buildings and empty lots.
A stately four-poster bed
However, from the 1990s and into the 2000s, Detroit started to experience a significant revival: the Comerica Tower was built in 1993; new state-of-the-art sports stadiums were constructed for the Detroit Lions and the Detroit Tigers; three casinos opened inside the city. In recent years, several large-scale events have also added to the city’s renaissance: the 2005 MLB All-Star Game, the 2006 Super Bowl, the 2006 Word Series and WrestleMania in 2007 were all held in Detroit. In October of 2008, one of the most ambitious architectural restoration programs was unveiled when the historic Book Cadillac Hotel was reopened under the Westin flag after a $200 million investment and 24 years of abandonment.
My cozy bedroom
Many revival initiatives have happened in Detroit over the years, and in the mid-town area many of them came together directly or indirectly because of the involvement of Sue Mosey and the University Cultural Center Association (UCCA). This non-profit organization is involved in the organization of special events, planning, transportation and public awareness campaigns. Sue added that since 2000 more than $2 billion have been invested in the Midtown area. Other areas of Detroit are also undergoing redevelopment as I witnessed myself during my walk through the historic Brush Park neighbourhood. Neighbourhoods like these are an interesting mix of shuttered buildings, vacant lots, recently restored historic buildings and brand-new real estate developments.
Sue Mosey does not want to want to dwell on the past, but looks forward to the things that remain to be done. Current initiatives at the University Cultural Center Association include a variety of beautification and maintenance projects, real estate developments including mixed lofts and the Midtown Loop Greenway trail, park redevelopments and streetscape enhancements. The UCCA also handles marketing for the Midtown area with a brand campaign, cultural events, a neighbourhood guide and a residential marketing program to promote living in Midtown Detroit.
Great common areas
The activities of the UCCA also extend to economic development and the attraction of new businesses and investment into the Midtown area. To this end the organization offers loan programs, development funds and grant programs for business and neighbourhood revitalization. Community events and the creation of a vibrant neighbourhood are also part of the UCCA’s mandate. Midtown flagship events such as the Detroit Festival of the Arts showcase art and entertainment provided by Cultural Center institutions and program. Another popular event organized by the UCCA is “Noel Night”, a holiday-themed community festival with live performances, crafts, demonstrations and art sales.
Also part of the Inn on Ferry Street
One of the key issues according to Sue Mosey is to create a better image of Detroit. Due to its economic and social problems over the last few decades, Detroit has been tarnished by negative news which have had a particularly strong effect on people from the surrounding suburban counties. The recent mayoral scandals added further fuel to the fire and created a negative perception of the city. Sue Mosey and the organizations she is involved with are working hard on initiatives that improve the public perception of the city. One of Sue Mosey’s goals is to bring the suburbanites back into the city by making Detroit a great place to live, work and play.
An impressive bedroom under the roof
Important ingredients for this urban revitalization include improved public transit (a light rail rapid transit line along Woodward Avenue is currently being discussed). Quality of life issues such as green spaces and recreational trails, wider sidewalks and attractive streetscaping; an introduction of more small businesses and retailers into Detroit’s various neighbourhoods; public art installations and large-scale projects like the Detroit International Riverfront are all part of making Detroit a more attractive place to visit and to live in.
Bright yellow bathroom