|Here are some things that are not abandoned in|
Detroit's handsome downtown.
Photo: Associated Press
On a solo bike ride along the fringes of downtown Detroit, gliding past the ghostly shells of buildings long since abandoned, two things occurred to me: One, these buildings are really spectacular. Two? I am riding my bike on the sidewalk. Something I could never do in New York.
The reason was simple enough. When touring a city of about 700,000 people that was built to hold at least 1 million more, you can go ahead and take all the space you need.
The streets may have appeared a little lonely at first, but when I did encounter people, they seemed extraordinarily cheerful and friendly. As I biked past total strangers walking their dogs, or chatting with their neighbors, they unfailingly looked up and waved, like we were in a small town. Maybe that’s the best way to sum up what I saw in Detroit. One part urban blight. One part something like buried treasure. And really, really friendly.
Detroit is not a place I had ever felt compelled to visit, but these days, it’s hard to open a magazine or newspaper without seeing yet another article on the Motor City. Some of them say it’s the end, almost reveling in its death, celebrating the abandonment. Others insist this is a town poised for a comeback, some say it’s already coming back and is being ruined by hipsters; still more don’t know what to think. Which is why I was here — I simply wanted to see this big old metropolis for myself.
On arrival, I did the same double-take most people seem to do when they get here: Detroit is one of the country’s most handsome cities, brimming with great architecture. Yes, some of it’s empty — like, say, the magnificent Michigan Central Station in Corktown, which hasn’t had a train pull out since the 1980s, but manages to remain one of the city’s premier attractions. (Imagine if Grand Central, designed in the same style by the same architectural firm, was abandoned; this gives you an idea of just how big and impressive a building we’re talking about.)
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