Motown Comeback?

Detroit is in a $300 million hole. Its schools are under an emergency financial manager. Its population loss is exceeded only by post-Katrina New Orleans. Crime has reached new heights, even for a city widely regarded as the murder capital of the country. And its elected representatives are going to jail faster than anyone can say s-l-a-m-m-e-r.

Yet some people are predicting that Detroit is about to experience a SoHo-like, artist-led renaissance. I examine that claim, first advanced in a New York Times op-ed, in my latest Forbes column.

An excerpt:

For starters, as best as I can gather from news reports–and after a day-long drive in East Detroit last weekend–this exciting new renaissance seems confined to less than a block. And it is hard to imagine it growing much more.

Real estate in Detroit is certainly cheap–but living in the city is not. That’s because, thanks to a dysfunctional city bureaucracy, residents have to pay dearly–either in time or money–for every basic service, particularly for safety. Even Cope, who writes a regular blog called the Power House Report, seems to acknowledge that. In an April post, he described a burglary at the house of his neighbor John. Despite the presence of a German shepherd, Cope noted, the robbers kicked in the two back doors and made away with some irreplaceable jewelry. Cope spent a day helping his friend replace the door, but seemed dejected afterward. “Somehow the neighborhood seems less friendly this week,” he wrote. “Maybe it’s just the warming of the weather that brings out the rats, fires, garbage and druggists, prostitutes, weirdos or maybe it’s just me.”

A childless and bohemian couple might well find it rewarding to endure all of this for the sake of a city they have adopted. But for most ordinary folks with families, children and regular jobs, living with rats, fires, garbage, druggists, prostitutes and weirdos is simply too big a price to pay…..

Whole thing here.