A Hundred Years of Detroit: Then and Now / The New Yorker / 2018
In the nineteen-forties, Detroit was the fourth-largest city in America, drawing in workers with opportunities for stable employment on the assembly lines at the Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler plants. Starting in the fifties, however, the auto industry spread beyond Detroit: factories closed, and jobs vanished from the city that had been the center of the industry. The effects of that shift are still visible. A few plants still operate, but the impacts of automation and globalization are unmistakable. Many facilities, now unused, serve as vandalized monuments to deindustrialization. The city rapidly became the textbook example of urban decay. Although more than 1.8 million people lived in the Motor City at its peak, fewer than seven hundred thousand now call Detroit home. In 2013, the city filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.
Select areas of Detroit are now in the midst of another radical transformation. In the city’s core, developers have converted crumbling buildings into upscale apartments and have launched a new streetcar system. Coffee shops and trendy restaurants with Instagram-friendly offerings populate formerly abandoned streets. In Brooklyn and Manhattan, billboards have popped up with messages attempting to lure gentrifiers to Detroit. Many note that the revitalization of “America’s Comeback City” has been primarily confined to the downtown and midtown areas; blight and depression still loom in predominantly black neighborhoods outside the city center. Some argue that this focus on developing the city’s core has drawn attention and resources from communities that are still dealing with a housing crisis, a lack of city services, and widespread displacement. Amid the ongoing change, there is cautious optimism, among some, that Detroit's motto—Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus (We hope for better things; it shall arise from the ashes)—will prove to be prescient. ➡︎
◼︎ Detroit, Then and Now / Sara Joe Wolansky / The New Yorker / June 19, 2018