DETROIT: THE WHEELS OF MOTOR CITY TURN AGAIN
FOOD AND FASHION LEAD FORMER RUSTBELT RUIN TO A MOTOWN REVIVAL.
Morning has broken, and so has this city. It’s early on a crisp Saturday in springtime Detroit and the signs of crumbling grandeur are visible through a series of half-hearted snow flurries. Cycling along the old railway line, which bisects the heart of this once-great city, is like pedalling through a post-apocalyptic film. Disintegrating warehouses and office blocks fringe GQ’S route, all silent rubble, jagged windows and roofless despair. On first appearance, this is the legacy of a city built for two million people; a city subsequently deserted by two-thirds of its citizens. But all is not as it seems in this hugely underpopulated rustbelt city. Further along the bike path, approaching the oldest district – Corktown – are clear signs of life. Outside one renovated home, Detroit’s flag is flying proudly. It bears the city’s 211-year-old motto: ‘Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus’. ‘We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes.’ Here at least, that phoenix effect appears to have ignited. Corktown is the vanguard of Detroit’s current revival – a slow but definite rebirth, now building serious momentum. After the city declared bankruptcy in 2013 (as a result of debts of about $26bn) Detroit seemed to many, observers and residents alike, to be a completely lost cause. But a combination of incredibly cheap property, vast tracts of available land and generous tax breaks have seen the wheels of Motor City finally start to turn again. The automotive industry (which once made this the richest city in the US) has largely gone, replaced by a new driving force of entrepreneurs, artists and chefs. They’re flocking in from places like New York City, Chicago and San Francisco in their thousands, hopeful of starting businesses for a fraction of the suffocating rents back home. In Corktown – recently named by Time Out as one of the 10 hippest communities in the world – that process is apparent. An old pawnbrokers on one corner has been
ABOVE: DETROIT’S SKYLINE – A STARK REMINDER OF THE OLD, FAT DAYS. LEFT: GOLD CASH GOLD HAS TRANSFORMED FROM FLAKY PAWN SHOP TO CULINARY PORN.