Reason Writers Around Town: Shikha Dalmia on Detroit's Illusory Renaissance


Hope springs eternal, they say. That's certainly the case in Detroit. The city, widely regarded as the economic basket-case of North America, might have now entered a fiscal death-spiral that even a bankruptcy might not reverse. Yet The New York Times, ABC News, and others are reporting that an artist-led recovery is on its way in Motown. Lured by $100 homes, artists allegedly are returning to the city and transforming it, much like they did SoHo, New York, many years ago. But Shikha Dalmia, who has lived in or near Detroit for 21 years, ain't buying it.

In her latest Forbes column, she notes:

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 (the first artist who moved back to the city), 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…

 Read the whole thing here.