By Jalal Abdallah and Michael Lucido
Over the past decades, Pontiac and its downtown have had more ups and downs than a department store elevator.
In January 1982, Pontiac hosted Super Bowl XVI at the Silverdome. In 2002, the Detroit Lions, after playing in Pontiac for more than a quarter of a century, abandoned the city to return to Detroit. In 2009, General Motors shuttered its car plant. And the following year, the popular Arts, Beats & Eats Festival moved to Royal Oak. It's easy to understand how a city can get a complex.
There have been some positive things of late. In 2017, the venerable Strand Theatre, which had been closed for decades, reopened downtown. The same year, Peter Karmanos Jr., CEO of MadDog Technology, a high-tech incubator, brought five high-tech start-ups to downtown Pontiac. (Karmanos' MadDog Technology is an investor in Deadline Detroit).
Still, for the most part, the downtown still looks pretty dreary, chock-full of vacant stores. If it were an emoji, it would likely be an unhappy face.
But that could change. Voters last August approved an ordinance allowing for 20 medical marijuana pot dispensaries and an unlimited number of growers and processors within the city limits. Some people think marijuana dispensaries could be what helps fuel a sustainable comeback, particularly in downtown Pontiac. The city, like Birmingham, Troy and other communities, bans recreational dispensaries, though it seems to be fairly easy to obtain a medical marijuana card these days.
We visited the city to check on the downtown's future.