Detroit – pros and cons
I spent the weekend up north this weekend, no cell phone, no internet, just really good friends having a great time. On the drive back to Detroit I opened up my phone best friend Facebook to see what had been going on in the city. And I came upon two articles that I was happy and sad to see. Two articles that brought out the fight in me.
One article, posted by Becks Davis, on Detroit Moxie, about the Schwankovsky Temple of Music building which is just 2 blocks away from Inside Detroit. The article by Becks is great, I know Mike and I assume the space looks great, I can’t believe I haven’t been down there yet, but I’ll make it. The reason this article makes me sad is the backlash from people about how it’s potentially ruining an old building. I understand where you are coming from, but I can not say that I agree. The Schwankovsky Temple of Music is a beautiful old building that has been sitting on the corner of Woodward and Clifford for some time now, I sometimes notice it, and think, “wow, that would make an amazing apartment complex.” But that’s if I notice it. You know what, in the past month, as Vitaminwater has been working on the space, I’ve noticed it every day. I’ve noticed the life that the building is living again.
In my opinion there are two views on the building (most buildings actually), the first is the “it’s a historic building and someone should renovate it”. The second is “a building should be used”. The way I see the Schwankovsky Temple of Music is that it now has a new life. There is something happening on the inside, people are going in the building, people are seeing how great it is. This will either breed one of two things, 1- people will hate it and buy it to change it back. 2- people will love the new space buy it and keep it up. Either way, there is something happening. You can love or hate what’s happening in the space, but you shouldn’t be upset that this beautiful building has a new life. It’s not getting torn down like the Lafayette Building or Tigers Stadium. It’s not standing vacant and falling apart like the Wulitzer. It has a new life. It has a life where people are getting to see it. They are seeing it in a new light, and that’s not a bad thing.
I thought that the people in Detroit wanted change, we want better things, but we have to be willing to be open to new ideas. That’s how this city will come back to life. That’s how we grow. Take an old space and make it new. Don’t sit on an old space and then be mad when it falls apart so bad that the city wants to tear it down. Be the change you wish to see, right? Well I want Detroit to be a place where people grow, fight for change, make new things, reuse what they can, and make this city livable. This is my city, I want to go into the Schwankovsky Temple of Music, and if an art, music, fashion, sports and street culture, sponsored by a beverage company is the way to do it, I’m all in.
The second article that I read was this article in GQ – Destroying Detroit (in Order to Save It). This article, well written, tells some amazing and powerful stories, is just the type of thing I like to read. It really does paint a picture of the demolition crews and how they do their jobs. What I didn’t like about this article is that the writer spends so much time talking about how the crews will demolish, why they are demolishing but he never really talks about why the city should be saved. These men are taking the city apart, over 70,000 abandoned homes, they have been doing it for years, and they keep on doing it. But the writer never talks about the neighborhoods, like mine, where no houses were on the list of 10,000 to demo first. He doesn’t talk about Southwest Detroit and how alive and thriving the community is. Or any of the other amazing neighborhoods around, which in my opinion are the reasons why Detroit should come back. He says we can’t be a city of MFA art projects and urban farms, but if that’s how the city brings in more people, then do it. Let’s be the first city to be self sufficient on locally grown food. Let’s urban farm the shit out of this city. If spaces like the Vitaminwater space gets people to use buildings, then let’s do it. I don’t want to see that building be torn down anytime soon, I want to see it used.
It’s my opinion that Howie Kahn is an amazing writer, he told a beautifully sad tale about the demolition men that are working to make the city better. What I think he failed to ask, or at least to write is the reasons why those men want to see the city come back. He wrote that they want to see it come back, but he didn’t tell us how or why. After 40 or 60 years of doing demo work, you can see a future for this city, but what is it? If you care about Detroit and take the time to demo houses that are unsafe and need to come down, you must have some insight into what you want to see the city become. Kahn is so good at painting a picture, I wish he would have spent the time on an extra page to say why Detroit shouldn’t just be hit by an A bomb… He paints a picture of all the abandoned homes, but never once talks about the neighborhoods in between that make the city thrive. If I didn’t live in the city, if I knew nothing about Detroit, this article would make me sad, then would make me say, ‘You know, he’s right, this city should just disappear, there is no life, there are only abandoned homes, and the few construction crews that care.
I understand that articles can only say so much, and that he was telling one story, but maybe write a side note about how it wasn’t all that bad. About how during your stay here you did a, b, and c, and it wasn’t bad, it was actually a good stay.
Ask me later about my thoughts on Bikes and Murder, a new group of people doing amazing things in the city, that are getting the short end of the stick because of their name. It’s again one of those things like the The Schwankovsky Temple of Music / Vitaminwater space, where they are doing something new and original and instead of people asking about the name they immediately write it off. We are a city that’s growing in more ways than one. Did you know that the murder rate in Detroit just dropped by a pretty amazing number, but because all over the country murder rates dropped we’re still number one, per capita in the country? Bikes and Murder has nothing to do with actual murder, it is a video game reference that the founders came up with, because all they wanted to do is play Call of Duty the zombie chapters and ride bikes. It wouldn’t be my first choice in naming my brand, but if you would see what they are doing, which in most cases has nothing to do with video games, you would be so impressed. They want to make Detroit a stronger bike community. They are coming up with amazing new bike rides for different days of the week. If you’ve heard me talk about cycling in Detroit you’d know that there are bike rides that happen in large scale, but on the smaller scale there are few, or at least the ones that happen around town I don’t hear about much. Those guys over at B&M are really pulling out all the stops making Alley Cat races, Slow Rolls to Slow Jams, Bikes and Movie nights, helping out a ton with Criterium Detroit City, and are all and all amazing people. The point of this rant is to say that yes, you might have a problem with the name, you might have a problem with painting on the walls, but you should not have a problem with people in the city trying to make the city better in their own way with whatever means they have. Detroit is a small place, where everyone hears everything, everyone knows everyone, and we should be trying to all work together to make it a better place. Use what you’ve got, use who you know and get things done, but make sure to keep an open mind about it. Just because it’s not the way you would have done it, doesn’t mean you should write it off without knowing more about it. Stop by the vitiaminwater space, check out a Bikes and Murder bike ride, ask the people there about the name/space/background. Keep an open mind, do what you do, be the Detroit you wish to see.
That’s about all I have to say for now. Please feel free to read both articles, check out the links and tell me what you think, I want to hear new opinions, voices and see new things. Show me Detroit as you see it.
Social Media & Marketing Coordinator for Inside Detroit.