New Book Says Detroit Is The World Capital Of Staring At Abandoned Buildings

12696979For decades, a succession of city officials has struggled mightily to rebrand Detroit’s battered image, writes Mark Binelli, in an excerpt from his new book, "Detroit City Is The Place To Be," his new book. The excerpt ran Sunday in the New York Times Magazine.

Mark grew up in suburban Detroit and moved away. He moved back to the city to tell the story of its transition from "capitalist dream town" to "urban failure" to "laboratory for the future." Then he left again. His book has received positive early reviews. 

He writes: "Their ideas have included casino gambling, an ’80s festival mall, new ballparks, hosting a Formula One grand prix, hosting a Super Bowl, even commissioning (this was Mayor Coleman Young, in 1984) Berry Gordy (who fled Detroit for Los Angeles by the early 1970s, taking the entire Motown operation with him) to write a city theme modeled after Frank Sinatra’s “Theme from New York, New York.” Another member of the Rat Pack, Sammy Davis Jr., was conscripted to handle the vocals, but sadly, Gordy’s song, “Hello, Detroit,” failed to burn up the charts.

"But now much of the attention being showered upon Detroit from the trendiest of quarters comes, in no small measure, thanks to the city’s blight. Detroit’s brand has become authenticity, a key component of which has to do with the way the city looks. Does fixing the very real problems faced by Detroiters, I began to wonder, mean inevitably robbing Detroit of some part of its essential Detroitness?

"This is not exactly a question of gentrification; when your city has 70,000 abandoned buildings, it will not be gentrified anytime soon. Rather, it’s one of aesthetics. And in Detroit, you can’t talk aesthetics without talking ruin porn, a term that has become increasingly familiar in the city. Detroiters, understandably, can get touchy about the way descriptions and photographs of ruined buildings have become the favorite Midwestern souvenirs of visiting reporters."

Read more:  New York Times Magazine
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