Known as the world’s traditional automotive center Detroit is a metonym for the American automobile industry and an important source of popular music legacies celebrated by the city’s two familiar nicknames, the Motor City and Motown. At its peak in 1950, the city was the fourth-largest in the USA.
How times have changed. Detroit now feels like it’s slowly sliding off the face of the Earth.
The statistics are staggering – 40sq miles of the 139sq mile inner city have already been reclaimed by nature. One in five houses now stand empty. Property prices have fallen 80% or more in Detroit over the last three years. A three-bedroom house on Albany Street is still on the market for $1.
This excellent documentary charts the downfall, but as the filmmaking crew discovered, to their surprise, an irrepressible positivity is slowly emerging in the city.
Unable to buy fresh food for their children, people are now growing their own, turning the demolished neighbourhood blocks into urban farms and kick-starting what is now the fastest-growing movement across the US. Although the city is still haemorrhaging population, young people from all over the country are also flooding into Detroit – artists, musicians and social pioneers, all keen to make use of the abandoned urban spaces and create new ways of living together.
Requiem for Detroit? is playing for the next 6 days on the BBC iPlayer (nb. It contains strong language). Check it out.
The Image above is from the collection 100 Abandoned Houses by Kevin Bauman which reveal a snapshot of this city at it’s crossroads.