A Tale of Two Detroits

It's a baffling time in the history of Detroit. For optimists, one can look to the rise of downtown and proposals for mega-development projects. For pessimists, there's the messy reality of impending municipal default. In Detroit, "paradox rules."
December 6, 2012, 11am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Columnist Laura Berman looks at Detroit's seemingly ever-present dualing moods - hope and despair - which the city wears as "a classic mask of comedy and tragedy on one municipal face."

"You pick: Detroit is having its phoenix moment, flying high. Or it is plunging ever deeper into the abyss. Emotional whiplash is the only constant."

Examples of hope abound, including a proposal by Mike Ilitch to build a $650 million arena and entertainment complex, and Dan Gilbert's crusade to fill up the city's skyscrapers with "suburban office exiles and fresh-faced young recruits eager to be part of the next innovation wave."

At the same time, "the city's running out of cash so quickly — and city government has been so impotent —that the state is poised to take action," notes Berman. "In a city where outside philanthropy and federal funds paper over the extent of the city's financial crisis, widespread recognition of impending catastrophe may never fully dawn."

"The 2012 documentary 'Detropia' caught a whiff of the uniquely local vibe with its title, playing on the idea of 'dystopia' and 'utopia' at once. A horrifying city of poverty and crime. An inspiring place where idealists plan communal farms and visionary entrepreneurs seize opportunity."

"Look around you: Detroit has a way of being the best and worst of places, in the best — or is it the worst? — of times."

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Published on Thursday, December 6, 2012 in The Detroit News
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