Sunday, March 27, 2011


At its peak in 1960, Metro Detroit had a population of 1,670,000. By 2010 this had more than halved to 713,000. The Detroit Area, covering six counties has a population of just over 4 million. The fall from grace of the American "Big Three" auto companies has been mirrored in the city's own fortunes. Efforts have been made to breath new life into the downtown core with redevelopment (construction of two major league stadiums and three casinos leading the way), but there's still some distance to go. Heavy manufacturing, in decline across the US and historically the mainstay of the city's economy will never make a significant comeback in Detroit. The city has struggled to re engineer the economy with unemployment and declining tax receipts significant problems. Rather than cars and music, Detroit has become synonymous with violent crime. Though the stats show a marked reduction in homicides since the dark days of the 70's when the city was the nations "murder capital" its still a tough place to live. In 2010 there were 307 murders down from 364 a year earlier. Though homicides have dropped in absolute terms the rate per 100,000 people is still pretty depressing.
  • New York city would need 2200 murders to match Detroit's rate- there were 532.
  • Chicago would need 935-they had 435.
  • Rio de Janiero (population 6,100,000) would need 2,867 there were 915.
  • Philadelphia has 600,000 more people than Detroit and 3 fewer homicides in 2010
  • The last time Detroit had as low an absolute number of murders was in 1967, but its population was more than double at 1,500,000.
Things are getting better but still pretty grim. The downtown area feels very safe and is well policed. The problem is that its hard to say where the good areas end and bad areas begin. Empty buildings sit cheek by jowl with smart office buildings.
Perhaps the most striking monument to urban decay is the old Central Train Station.
When Central Station opened in 1913, it was the tallest railway station in the world. Its built in the Beaux Arts Classical style and was designed by the same architects who built New York's Grand Central. It was an elegant structure in its day, beautifully decorated and a wonderful introduction to a vibrant confident city. Its last passengers graced its lobby in 1988, and since then the building has fallen into disrepair and perhaps symbolises the city's decline.

Walking around downtown you don't have to venture far to see further evidence tough times.

The only place I felt unsafe was at the houses above.
Just after I snapped the picture, I was astonished when three guys popped out and yelled something unintelligible. They half ran/ stumbled towards me, but were in no shape to give any sort of serious chase.
Early as it was I can only assume many of the places I walked through were inhabited with occupants sleeping off a rough Friday night.
Its eerie to see office buildings, hotels and apartments bricked up and abandoned in the middle of downtown. At times the city felt more like Beirut than the mid west.

All of these pictures were taken within a 25 minute walk from my hotel at the Renaissance Center, the showpiece of downtown redevelopment.
The primary purpose of my trip to Detroit was to see the Red wings-Leafs game.
I'd lived in Toronto some time back and was never able to get tickets, so it was interesting to see them in Detroit.
Despite 19 straight sell outs it was easy to score a ticket on line.

As the cliche goes, I went to the fights and a hockey game broke out.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do.........
In the UK fans on opposing teams are strictly separated.
Not so at Hockey games.
Add to the mix 24 oz beers and you can see the result.
Despite Detroit's population being nearly 80% Black, I saw no African Americans at the game.
The crowd was Joe lunch-bucket white.
No idea why.
That's it for today.
Hope is all is well wherever you may be.
Next stop Philly on Wednesday and Aruba on Saturday!
Love to all


Kjell Tjensvoll said...

Great post Terry. Sad to see the decay like that and I'm glad those guys didn't come close enough to do you harm. I especially loved the picture of the feet on the pavement coming out from the street corner. Great shot!
I'm currently trotting around in Boston and came up here from Austin last week. New blog post coming up when I get home :-)
Going to UKSG next week - see you there?

Lucia Falc√£o said...

For those who were born in Rio these kind of sad situations are part of our lives, but we are educated under a tag that classifies us as "The third world", so it is kind of acceptable in cities like ours, quite normal and , if Detroit's statistic is unfair, even worst ...
It is strange see that this is also one of the US pictures in this wonderful gallery we have in the top of the world.
Maybe it is a naive comment but this post breaks out a lot of questions in our minds.
The pictures have a great power to make us wonder-very nice ones, just because of it. Falam por elas mesmas.
Beijos. Lucia.