Why on earth you would spend the holidays in Detroit…

… while you could be places far more beautiful.


After finishing the Carlo Schmid Fellowship in NYC with UNDP in late December, I had about two weeks time to … enjoy the holidays in the US. Las Vegas? Grand Canyon? California? Dude, overrated. I chose the only real thing: Detroit.

Q: What do you associate with Detroit?

A, commonly: Eminem, 8 mile, Trailer Parks, Drugs, Motor City, Murder City.

A, mine: Home. The place where I was once introduced to the high art of stink-bomb-building by my host sister Alison Lisi. Where my second family and many friends live. Lately, some of these people predict that “Detroit will come back”, as Hannah Schottenfels, a recent graduate of social work school in Detroit, told me over coffee just after Christmas.

Good news are a rare thing in Detroit. In 2014, it was once more the city with most murders in the US. In the 50ies, at the peak of its largely auto-industry-fuelled wealth, Detroit’s population came close to 2 million people – not quite Berlin, but almost. After that, white flight, industrial restructuring and most recently the economic crisis hit the city hard. Between 2000 and 2010, on average one resident every 22 minutes left. Charlie LeDuff, Journalist and Detroit native, demonstrates how deserted Detroit is these days: You can golf your way right through the empty lots and houses and nobody cares.

Good news are a rare thing in Detroit – but lately they are buzzing in the air. Once you hit the bottom, the only way is up.

I’ve recently heard people who work at the United Nations in New York City discuss whether they should buy a house in Detroit for a couple hundred bucks. The city might, after all, become the “next big thing”

Incredibly cheap real estate and rent are attracting students, ideas and investors like Dan Gilbert, who bring in loads of fresh money. Shinola Detroit, founded in 2011, only produces a handful of items – watches, bicycles, leather goods – and is one of the most prominent examples for Detroit’s renaissance.

This is what “the (potential) next big thing” looks like in the making: Cruising Detroit a couple days ago.

The stops from the video on our lil sunday cruize:

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 15.31.54 Wanna know more about Detroit’s renaissance? Stay tuned.


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