The first time I went to Detroit was sometime in 1985. The Four Tops and the Temptations were performing a reunion show and my radio station, CKSL in London, sent me along to escort contest winners in a limo to the show.
We got very drunk on Kahlua and arrived at the venue a bit late. Even worse, there were no tickets for us at the box office! So there I was with a couple I didn’t know, hammered, watching two legendary Motown bands from a standing position at the back of the music hall. I’m telling you, this broadcasting gig is all glamour!
As you likely know, Detroit filed for bankruptcy last year. That allows the city to receive federal help to pay its bills. Hubby’s best friend lives in Detroit. We go to or pass through it on a semi-regular basis and parts of downtown are abandoned, falling down or completely covered in graffiti. Some merchants in the hard-hit areas are still clinging to their businesses behind heavily fortified storefronts. It’s very sad.
But the city is taking an aggressive approach to repopulation. It’s auctioning houses with a starting bid of $1000. There are catches. The new owner has to renovate and bring the homes up to code and fill them with tenants within six months or they forfeit the property. Detroit has 16,000 vacant homes and they’ll auction one a day starting May 5th.
They’re dead serious about reviving empty neighbourhoods and getting the city moving again. Speculators aren’t welcome to bid and you have to be a Michigan resident to take part. How smart is that? Instead of letting perfectly good dwellings fall into disrepair, they’re offering incentives for revitalizing neighbourhoods. They say it’s a sign of things to come and if future ideas are anything like this one, I wouldn’t count Detroit down and out just yet.