|Fabrizio Costantini for The New York Times|
The message implicit in the prizewinning documentaries “Detropia” and “Searching for Sugar Man,” in Detroit’s declaration of bankruptcy in 2013 — in even a casual drive along Gratiot Avenue, past mile after mile of burned-out or boarded-up houses and stores — is that Detroit is in a pitiable state.
Yet when Toby Barlow reflects on Detroit, his adopted hometown, what he describes is potential, not pity — cheap real estate being the major reason.
“It’s fun to be here and be a part of those things that are re-emerging,” says Mr. Barlow, creative director at the advertising agency Team Detroit. “There are just a wealth of things that don’t exist in Detroit — and should.”
To create those things in the Motor City, Mr. Barlow, 48, who moved from New York to work on a Ford Motor account and stayed, has become an entrepreneur. He has opened a design store in Midtown, founded a nonprofit at Eastern Market that trains people in letterpress printing, and plans to open a restaurant in Corktown soon.
He has even found time to publish two novels since moving to Detroit from Brooklyn seven years ago. But his newest, headline-grabbing venture — with Sarah Cox, his partner in the project and another Brooklyn transplant — is one that aims to revitalize the city’s art community and potentially be a model for post-blight Detroit.
The project is called Write A House, and it is giving free houses to writers.
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