"Detroit's motto, coined in 1827 to memorialize a devastating fire, translates from Latin as "We hope for better things; it shall arise from the ashes." But hope is in short supply. At 13%, Detroit's unemployment rate is the worst in the country among major metropolitan areas. City hall, long racked by corruption and cronyism, became a punch line last fall amid former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's imprisonment. To make matters worse, the city is struggling to bankroll potential remedies. Its projected $300 million budget deficit recently spurred ratings agencies to downgrade its municipal bonds to junk status. (See pictures of Detroit's decline.)
And yet if Detroit is the nexus of the Rust Belt's decay, it's also a signpost for where other ailing cities may be headed--and a laboratory for the sort of radical reconstruction needed to fend off urban decline. "People know that times are bad. But we're not going to roll over and die," says George Jackson, CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. "To me, this is war. And I think we're going to win."
In a bid to resuscitate the economy and create jobs, developers have opened gleaming new hotels, touted investment opportunities and rolled out the welcome mat for Hollywood studios. But most residents say Detroit needs to prepare for a future that bears little resemblance to its storied past."