Detroit City: Expectations vs. Reality

Posted in: Lifestyle

Header image source: Joe Gall Photography

Whenever I travel someplace outside of the state of Michigan, I am often greeted with the same kind of reaction when I tell people I am from Detroit.

“Have you ever been to a rap battle on 8 mile?” “How many times have you been shot at?” “Eww, why don’t you move?” If you hail from Detroit, or even one of the nearby suburbs, I’m sure you’ve heard similar reactions when sharing the location of your hometown.

Even during my time living in other large cities across the country, people still often separated Detroit in their minds as a city full of destruction, threats and violence— even when many of their cities faced these same problems. Somewhere along the line, Detroit gained the reputation of just being “worse.” Worse in crime, worse in people, worse in living conditions – the unrefuted rock bottom of the American Dream.

But the truth of the matter is, 8 Mile Road is nowhere near as thrilling as Eminem made it out to be (“it’s no movie, there’s no Mekhi Phifer”), I don’t fear for my safety while walking around the city, and—most importantly—Detroit City is one of the most misunderstood, beautiful and motivating places I have ever been.

Sure, we’ve had our fair share of problems and we’ll be the first to admit that we’ve got some changes that need to be made to our city, but we’re also not a city that can easily be written off, as many would like to do. We are rebuilding our city better and stronger each and every day, and we are ready for the world to see the real view of Motor City.

“Detroit Is On The Decline”

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In the last couple of years, Detroit has earned itself a nickname – “America’s Great Comeback City.” And while the many passionate, loyal residents of Detroit may have never doubted their city’s resilience, it seems as though the rest of the world is finally taking notice too.

Many entrepreneurs have begun flocking to the city because they see boundless potential for tech, innovation and creativity in both the city and its people. Many people have referred to the current culture and state of Detroit as “the entrepreneurial gold rush.” A time for innovation, growth, learning and excitement like we’ve never seen before. This has led to more jobs in the city, more potential for tech and development, and even more chances for collaboration between the old and the new. However, outsiders aren’t the only ones looking to revamp the city and build new, exciting ventures from the ground up. Some of the biggest changes to the city’s future, including the new Red Wings entertainment district and arena (see development photo above), come from those who are already invested in the present.

“Detroit Is Dangerous”

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Detroit has been on its fair share of unflattering Top 10 lists throughout the city’s history, and it’s not something that we ignore. That’s why there has been a huge movement in the last couple of years to clean up Detroit’s streets, make the city safer and form a strict policy regarding crime in the city. Luckily this initiative has paid off – since 2013, the city has seen a reduction in homicides and non-fatal shootings, as well as fewer robberies, fewer break-ins of businesses and homes, and 30% fewer carjackings compared to the year prior. Detroit was also rated the #1 safest city in the U.S. by Homeownersinsurance.com...when it came to the number of natural disasters over a 10-year period. But still! Detroiters have long been proud of their city and have had passion for their community, which is why they have taken it upon themselves to help make their city safer and cleaner, which leads to our next point…

“Detroit Is Dirty”

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When many people picture Detroit, they often visualize abandoned homes and buildings, or the photos of “ruin porn” that have become very popular throughout the media. But not all of Detroit looks like that. In fact, many of those buildings that were torn down made way for new, innovative projects that have since sprung up. And the rest of the city is constantly being revamped and cleaned up by amazing initiatives like “Keep Detroit Beautiful,” which includes helpful projects such as Adopt-A-Lot, Adopt-A-Shelter, Keep Detroit Beautiful Day and the Motor City Makeover campaign that encourages volunteers to clean and beautify Detroit. Rather than revel in Detroit’s destruction, these amazing organizations are helping the city get back to its heyday!

“There’s Nothing To Do In Detroit”

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When it comes to finding fun things to do in the Motor City, your options are limitless. Of course, we have three amazing sports teams located right in the heart of the D – The Detroit Red Wings, The Detroit Tigers and The Detroit Lions — which always make for a fun day of tailgating, cheering and city pride. But when there’s an away game or it’s the off season, you are still left with plenty of art, culture, food and fun to soak up.

The Detroit Opera House, Detroit Symphony, Detroit Institute of Arts and Detroit Repertory Theatre all make for great activities for the entire family. You could also head down to Eastern Market to pick up some delicious locally grown food, take the family over to Belle Isle for a day of fun at one of America’s largest urban parks, or even go boating on the Detroit River. Plus, depending on the season, there are any number of festivals, fairs or events to take part in. One of our favorites is The Rink at Campus Martius Park, featuring open ice skating and a holiday tree throughout the winter months. (See photo above.)

“Detroit Has No Jobs, So Don’t Move There”

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It’s a common warning that we have heard time and time again when people think about moving to Motor City to be a part of the city’s rebirth - “Detroit has no jobs, so don’t move there.” And while the Detroit unemployment rate fell hard during the recession, it has been slowly working its way up as the burgeoning tech industry flocks to Detroit and more and more companies begin to open up offices in the city. In fact, in 2013, tech employment rose 15%, adding 30,000 jobs, according to a report by Automation Alley. Detroit was also rated #1 for employee availability – the number of unemployed people adjusted for the number of job openings, according to Marketwatch.

“If you’re trying to make it in the tech community, I can’t image why you wouldn’t want to do it in Detroit. You can make a bigger impact quicker. The rent is cheaper. We get media coverage simply because we’re a company that’s actually choosing to be in Detroit,” Jay Gierak, a founder of the Detroit-based social recommendations site, Stik, said.

If you are thinking of coming to Detroit to spread your creative roots and join an innovative, growing team, the time is now! Hello Innovation is hiring 30+ people in Detroit, including sales, support, technology, biz-product development, marketing and operations. Check out our current openings and be a part of the city’s rebirth.

Also be sure to share your own Detroit Expectations vs. Reality comparisons in the comments below!

6 comments

  • Avatar Bd
    September 5, 2014

    How about panning that camera out a mile and step away from downtown. The expectaions in the living areas is reality!

  • Avatar John
    September 5, 2014

    I agree with BD ^^^ Ilitch and Ford along with investors are putting money into one specific area downtown. During sporting events I have watched people walk through the parking lots and streets pulling door handles looking for cars to steal and rummage through. Go just a couple blocks outside of the stadiums and there lies all the shit hole areas that the rest of the world knows Detroit for. And just because you can drive your car down 8 mile from Jefferson to Woodward doesn’t mean it’s safe by any means. Get out of your car and take a walk. See how long it takes to either get robbed or raped. It’s sad since I lived south of 8 mile 15 years ago and the fact that it has gotten to that point is sickening.

    • Rilee Chastain Rilee Chastain
      September 10, 2014

      Thanks for the comments! Yes, as we mentioned, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done downtown to get Detroit to it’s prime – no doubt. But there is also a lot of great improvements happening all around the city that we’re proud to share and get people excited about 🙂

  • Avatar Margo Stoney
    September 28, 2014

    This is really encouraging for someone in my shoes, thank you for posting this. I’m returning to Metro Detroit after living “out west” in the mountains for seven years. None of my colleagues or friends seem to understand why I’m moving across the country to live in Detroit. I’m excited to be a young, creative person with a world of new opportunities that will allow me to be a part of something. I know there’s a ways to go before Detroit is the next destination city, but, in the mean time I’m excited to watch the transformation.

    • Rilee Chastain Rilee Chastain
      September 29, 2014

      Margo, thanks for the wonderful comment and congrats on moving back to Detroit to spread your creative roots! We bet you’ll enjoy the city just as much as we do : )

  • Avatar Joe K
    December 22, 2015

    I’m glad you guys are proud of your city and are doing something to change its perception. All the negative things you say about it are exactly what all of us outside Detroit think. Here in Houston where I’m from we kind of have the same thing going on but in reverse. Houston has a great economy but has always been known as a trafiic ridden, oil boom town. Yes, we have traffic and are the energy capital of the world but we’re also the 4th largest city in the nation, we’ve got a HUGE art & theater industry, tons of restaurants and top chefs. Houston is a young city, Detroit is a rebound city…and both trying to make their mark. Good luck and hope to visit soon!

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