Detroit: Rebuilding And Ready For A Comeback

Detroit street art_credit Susan B. Barnes
Photo: USA Today Travel
"It takes heart to fight something that so many consider a lost cause.

A strong mind to breathe life into that cause and prove so many wrong.

Keep your heart true and your mind strong, Detroit." - FEL300FT

At first glance during a visit to downtown Detroit, signs of rebuilding and regrowth are evident and all around: Sleek, new condo buildings are sprouting up, a railway is being built through the center of the city, historic theaters are undergoing major renovations, and there's an exciting vibe that you can feel when visiting.

A terrific way to get a real sense of that vibe and excitement is with Detroit Experience Factory, which offers free weekly public tours, as well as customized tours. Co-founder Jeanette Pierce's enthusiasm about her hometown was infectious on a recent tour. As we rode through D-Town, Jeanette shared the city's history – the good and the recent not-so-good. We saw burned out, boarded up and abandoned houses, and on the next block, shiny new condo high-rises.

Jeanette also shared the facts: Detroit drew 1 million people from 1910-1930 with the boom of the auto industry, and today is the same size as Portland, Ore., and Atlanta with 700,000 residents; the city welcomes 16 million visitors annually; its theater scene is second only behind New York City with 13,000 seats; and 154 bars and restaurants can be found within a one-mile radius downtown, with another 150 just beyond and more opening seemingly every day.

In Mid-Town, the Willis Canfield Retail District (which I've dubbed WillCan) is a two-block area that's booming – 20 businesses have opened in the past two years. One of WillCan's anchors is Traffic Jam & Snug, a Detroit institution which has made its home in the same spot for decades and is the first brew-pub in all of Michigan. Not only that, but it houses its own bakery and houses the state's smallest licensed dairy, producing its own cheeses and ice cream.

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