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Useful Notes / Detroit

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"When you hurt, we hurt
Your streets witness our struggle
Your bricks show are our rage through the emptiness of each house shuttered, of each factory closed
We've lived through the ups and the downs
But we remain, Detroit
We can never turn our backs on you, Detroit, because we are you."
Eminem, "Letter to Detroit"

The Motor City. Motown. The D. Hockeytown. The Arsenal of Democracy. The Paris of the Midwest.

In the mid-20th century, Detroit was the fourth-largest city in the United States (peaking at 1.8 million in 1950), the center of its powerful auto industry, and a bustling hub of music and culture. Things have changed a lot since then; Detroit's population has dropped to 600,000 (a third of its 1950 peak).note  But it still remains the largest city in the State of Michigan and the focal point of the Great Lakes State's main population center (with a metropolitan population of 4.3 million, or slightly less than half the total state population of 10 million) and economic engine.

The Detroit area is the center of America's automotive industry. Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis North America (better known as Chrysler) have headquarters there and it is known as the "Motor City" for this very reason.note  Its most recognizable structure is the Renaissance Center, a cluster of late-'70s-era skyscrapers that serve as GM's headquarters. The Center notably clashes with the rest of the city's skyline, built much earlier in the century; at the time it was built, it stood as a promise for a bright future for the city, and it now serves as a visible reminder of the region's stagnation. Atlanta based Delta Airlines also operates its second-largest hub at Detroit Metropolitan-Wayne County Airport (DTW). The hub was inherited via a merger with Northwest Airlines and serves as the largest in their Midwest network note  as well as being their main transpacific base.

It is geographically notable for a few reasons. Despite being separated from Windsor, Ontario by the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair, it features the busiest U.S.-Canada border crossing—the Ambassador Bridge. It is also the only place in the contiguous 48 States where Canada is south of the U.S., since Windsor juts out to the west just so.note  Detroit itself is surrounded by smaller independent municipalities, which form the Metro Detroit area. With both a Spanish Univision station in Detroitnote  and (until it was shut down in 2012) a CBC tower in Windsor rebroadcasting the main Francophone feed from Montréal, it was for many years the only area in North America where you could watch free-to-air TV in three languages.note 

The Metro Detroit area is home to a myriad cultures and ethnicities, including one of the largest Arab populations in North America, centered in Dearborn (with a sizable Lebanese outpost in West Bloomfield — where they get along rather interestingly with the large Jewish population - and the world's biggest Iraqi Catholic population outside Iraq, centered in the northeast exurbs of Utica and Shelby Township, where they get along rather interestingly with the existing predominance of Albanians and Macedonians). It is also very economically and racially-segregated, with poorer minorities living in the city, the white working-class in the eastern suburbs and the Downriver areanote  next door to the city to the southwest, and the predominantly white and Asian American upper-middle-class in the northwestern suburbs/exurbs and the Grosse Pointesnote  just east of the city proper. The Metro Detroit area is one of the most racially segregated in the nation.

This inequality is just one reason that Detroit has one of the least-flattering public images of any major city in the country. The decline of the American auto industry in the The '70s, combined with simmering racial, economic, and labor tensions, have made it the poster child for, and butt of many jokes about, urban decay and inner-city squalor for much of America. Detroit has lost two thirds of its peak population since 1950 (from 1.8 million to less than 640,000). For decades, mentions of Detroit in the national media and pop culture have typically referred to it as a Place Worse Than Death, and the crumbling ruins of some of its more destitute neighborhoods have honestly been described as looking post-apocalyptic. This tends to seriously annoy Detroiters, who feel that the city's bad reputation is making it harder to revitalize. They also feel that many of the jokes are tired, clichéd, and lazy. The city filed for bankruptcy in 2013, becoming the largest municipal bankruptcy case in U.S. history. Since the bankruptcy, the city's finances are much more stable, and there are a number of projects for growth across the city, especially in Downtown and Midtown. That being said, city redevelopment can be a slow process, as the experiences of many other cities in the U.S. can tell. Over the years, however, the city has seen a number of new major retail openings to compete with party stores,note  Amocos-turned-BPs, Perry Drugs-turned-Rite Aids and Arbor Drugs-turned-CVS Pharmacies.

Detroit is also known as "Hockeytown" due to the Detroit Red Wings, one of the "Original Six" teams of the NHL, and one of four such teams in the Eastern Conference's Atlantic Division,note  and a perennial Stanley Cup contender. The city has teams in all four major sports, as the Pistons had a few dominant runs in basketball and the the Tigers have had their moments in baseball. The Lions, on the other hand, have the second longest championship drought of any football team, having not won an NFL title since before the Super Bowl even existed.

The two primary sides, the East Side and the West Side, are divided by Woodward Avenue, a major thoroughfare designated as Michigan state highway M-1, although there are several lesser-known sides within these two larger sides. Woodward Avenue features a streetcar line called the QLine, opened in 2017, which connects downtown, midtown and New Center, where one of its stops is located across from the city's Amtrak station. Woodward is one of six wide, major throughfares that radiate from the city center into the surrounding suburbs (Woodward extends as far north as Pontiac in neighboring Oakland County), and in some instances, well into outstate Michigan.note 

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    Downtown and Midtown 
Downtown Detroit: The central hub of the city, serving as both a business district and a residential district. Many of Detroit's prominent skyscrapers are located in this area.

Fell into an Audience-Alienating Era during The '70s as its status as the metro area's main employment center was displaced by new office centers in the suburbs, and was really showing by The '90s when Woodward Avenue through the heart of downtown was lined with wig shops, check-cashing places, and other Wretched Hive mainstays.

Downtown would escape from this Audience Alienating Era at the Turn of the Millennium, beginning with the Tigers' relocation to Comerica Park, and by the time of Quicken Loans' relocation of its headquarters from Livonia to Campus Martius in 2010 and the subsequent reoccupation of Downtown's formerly-abandoned skyscrapers, this Audience Alienating Era had ended.

Downtown is encircled by a one-way elevated light rail track called the People Mover, which has seen varying ridership levels since its 1987 opening, but is really useful for somewhat quick travel to various downtown hotspots for those who prefer not to walk, which is typically faster anyway, connects to the aforementioned QLine at two locations, and it gets especially packed during sporting events and conventions.

Midtown Detroit: Located across Interstate 75note  from downtown, Midtown covers about two square miles of the city, and features a collection of hospitals named the Detroit Medical Center.

Some of the more notable subdistricts include:

  • Art Center: Located at the northernmost end of midtown; it features several notable museums, most notably the Detroit Institute of Arts; the main branch of the Detroit Public Library, the main campus of Wayne State University, and historic Victorian homes on Ferry Avenue.
  • Brush Park: An area east of Woodward and on the other side of I-75 that is home to numerous Victorian style residences that were originally built for Detroit's wealthiest. During The 20th Century, the neighborhood fell on hard times, and many of these homes were left behind to deteroiate, with a decent number being damaged beyond repair and subsequently demolished. Since relatively late in The '90s, however, many of the remaining homes have been grandfully restored, and new developments have been constructed on many once-vacant lots, including the only Whole Foods Market grocery store to ever be opened within Detroit city limits.
  • Cass Corridor: Covers blocks on both sides of Cass Avenue north of I-75, originally one of Detroit's most wealthiest districts up until the mid-20th Century, it has received an incredible appearance makeover, played in large part by Wayne State. Both the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Pistons play at Little Caesars Arena. Built in 2017, it serves as the anchor of the neighborhood's southern end.
  • Campus Martius Park: For many years a messy convergence of wide roads that was very pedestrian-unfriendly, anchored by the 1001 Woodward Avenue skyscraper, starting at the Turn of the Millennium, it was replaced with a traffic circle featuring parks and monuments, emerging as downtown's main gathering spot.
  • Capitol Park: When Michigan attained statehood in 1837, the first state capitol buildingnote  was located within this park. That building has been long demolished, but the park itself continues to thrive, especially as the surrounding blocks have seen gentrification during The New '10s, particularly after the Detroit Department of Transportationnote  relocated its downtown hub away from the park to another downtown location in 2009.
  • Financial District: Detroit's historic financial district, dating back to the 1850s, several ornate skyscrapers can be found in this district, including the Guardian Building, the Penobscot Building, and One Woodward Avenue.
  • Grand Circus Park: A half-circular park bisected by Woodward Avenue, several notable skyscrapers surround it, the Detroit Opera House anchors the east half, and Comerica Park, the home ballpark of the Detroit Tigers, is located at the park's northeast corner.
  • Greektown: Established by Greek-Americansnote , the neighborhood, centered on Monroe Street, nowadays is more well known for its bustling Greek restaurants and the Greektown Casino Hotel, one of the city's three casino resorts.
  • Sugar Hill: Contains Forest Avenue, and Garfield and Canfield streets between Woodward Avenue and John R. Street, the main draws being an art gallery and luxurious lofts and offices.
    New Center and the North End 
New Center: Located next door to the northern edge of midtown, this commercial and residential district is centered on the intersection of Woodward Avenue and Grand Boulevard and anchored by the Cadillac Placenote  and Fisher Building skyscrapers.

Some of the more notable subdistricts include:

  • Boston-Edison: A historic neighborhood centered on Chicago Boulevard and Boston Boulevard between Woodward Avenue and Linwood Street containing large mansions which have been home to such notable residents as Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford, Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr., S.S. Kresge and Kmart founder Sebastian S. Kresge, and former Detroit mayor James Couzens.
  • Chaldean Town: This neighborhood, located along 7 Mile Road immediately east of Woodward Avenue, became a Chaldean Christian enclave in The '60s, and to this date continues to attract newcomer immigrants to Detroit, who then move on to the northern suburbs while retaining ownership of the neighborhood's businesses.
  • Hamtramck and Highland Park: A pair of separately-incorporated cities that do share a border with each other for about a quarter mile,note  but are otherwise completely surrounded by Detroit. Hamtramck is noticeably more densely-spaced and was the metro area's Polish enclave for generations,note  although numerous Arabic and Asian immigrants have been moving into the area. It achieved two significant "firsts" among U.S. cities over the years; in 2015, it became the first to have a Muslim-majority city council, and in 2023 became the first in which all elective government officers (mayor and all council members) were Muslims. Later that year, the new council caused an uproar by banning "religious, ethnic, racial, political, or sexual orientation group flags" on city property, with the resolution being voted on during (LGBT+) Pride Month. Highland Park, historically a blue collar community, suffered a massive population loss after Ford and Chrysler closed their plants in this enclave in favor of more modern ones in the suburbs, and nowadays has a similar reputation as Detroit, if not worse. For instance, their only high school closed in 2015 and was quickly demolished, and many of its residential streets, most notably Avalon and Buena Vista Streets, lacked streetlights.
  • Milwaukee Junction: The location of junctions and crossings between a number of railroad mainlines, numerous large industrial buildings were constructed in the surrounding neighborhood starting in the 1890s, including Cadillac's original assembly plant, Fisher Body Plant 21, Fisher Body Plant 23, the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant, and assembly plants for Studebaker, Dodge, and Regal Motor Car.
  • Palmer Park: A large park located along the west side of Woodward south of 7 Mile, with a neighborhood comprising apartment buildings abutting the park's southern edge.
  • Palmer Woods: An upper-class neighborhood north of Palmer Park, known for its curved streets (with white-painted stone rocks in lieu of curbs), large elm trees and large brick and Tudor Revival homes on large lots.
  • Sherwood Forest: Located between Palmer Woods and Livernois Avenue, the neighborhood was established in 1917 and is similar in character to Palmer Woods.
    East Side 
East Side: One of the earliest upper-class areas of the city (even if they were few and far between), but it also contained a great number of rundown areas in the past. Nontheless, east siders enjoy the best access to the Detroit River and Lake Saint Clair, and it is not uncommon to hear blaring horns from passing freighters on foggy days. The east side's street grid is all over the place, with streets suddenly changing directions in areas where grid directions clash with one another. On top of that, they tend to carry funky and French names, such as Saint Jean, Kercheval Avenue, Charlevoix, and Cadieux Road.
  • Belle Isle: A city park-turned-state park that comprises an entire Detroit River achipelago. Tourist attractions include the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, and the Belle Isle Aquairum. For a while, it also hosted the Detroit Grand Prix race the Sunday after the Indianapolis 500 before the race returned to the streets of downtown Detroit in 2023.
  • Conant Gardens: This small residential neighborhood bordered by 7 Mile Road, Nevada Avenue, Conant Street, and Ryan Road is the location of John J. Pershing High School.
  • East English Village and Morningside: These two neighboring upper-class neighborhoods share a border with Grosse Pointe, and feature wide streets lined with brick and Tudor homes of various sizes, predominantly large and luxurious, which seems natural given its location.
  • Eastern Market: The largest historic public market district in the United States, it is home to public market sheds, numerous food wholesaling and processing businesses, and fine restaurants. Unfortunately, the district was basically cut in half when the Fisher Freeway Connector to Gratiot Avenue was built in the 1960s.
  • Indian Village: Established early in The 20th Century, its famous homes were originally built for some of Detroit's most prominent citizens, and is still home to some of the city's white collar population. Located north of Jefferson Avenue three miles east of downtown.
  • Lafayette Park: An urban renewal project constructed on the site of the African American enclave of Black Bottom, featuring large parks and apartment buildings of varying heights, from low-rise apartments to apartment towers.
  • Noham or Banglatown: Named for its location just north of the City of Hamtramck, this neighborhood began gaining Bangladeshi-American residents at the Turn of the Millennium, and by 2015, they were joined by artists, and, of course, hipsters.
  • Poletown: A Polish-American neighborhood sandwiched between Eastern Market and Hamtramck, a large portion of it was controversially completely demolished in 1981 for a General Motors assembly plant. The remnants of the neighborhood are now generally termed Poletown East.
  • Rivertown: Located along the Detroit River just east of downtown, it experienced a decline throughout The 20th Century before resurging in The '90s, and is now home to new residential developments, including Harbortown, an upscale high-rise apartment complex that also features a marina.
    West Side 
West Side: The section of Detroit that contains most of the city's upper-class neighborhoods, although the area was once working class. Streets tend to adhere to the cardinal directionsnote  and the Public Land Survey System. Much of the city's universities have also been set up on the west side, and it shows in the income levels.

That said, the west side also has a few off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods of its own, historically especially along Rosa Parks Boulevard, which was renamed in honor of the prominent Civil Rights Movement leader (who, in fact, resided in Detroit for her later life) in 1976 after its previous name, 12th Street, had become more well known for being the center location of the five-day 1967 riot, which damaged the city's public image for a generation.

  • Brightmoor: A neighborhood that was settled in 1922 by workers from Appalachia, who were drawn to the city's automotive manufacturing plants. Once The '80s rolled around, however, residents began leaving the neighborhood in droves, and crime became the main driving force in the population decline as homes and businesses became abandoned. Fortunately, by The New '10s, non-profit organizations have begun the process of restoring Brightmoor's formerly prestige image.
  • Grandmont, Rosedale Park, and North Rosedale Park: Three adjacent neighborhoods on the west side of the Southfield Freeway (M-39) centered around the six-way intersection of Grand River and Fenkell avenues, Ashton Road, and Bretton Drive that began development in the 1910s-20s on land deeded by former U.S. president Andrew Jackson in 1835 and feature stately trees, large homes in a multitude of architectural styles with street names adopting an English country theme, including Scarsdale Street, home of the North Rosedale Park Civic Association, which serves as the heart of the North Rosedale Park neighborhood.
  • Old Redford: Formerly part of Redford Township, it was annexed into Detroit in 1926. It features a small business district anchored by the Redford Theatre, an indoor movie theater that specalizes in screenings of films of various vintages; and decent residential streets.
  • Parkland and Warrendale: Two neighborhoods that are located on the far western side of the city and each share a border with the cities of Dearborn and Dearborn Heights.
  • University District: Anchored by the University of Detroit Mercy, the city's other main university, it's a middle class district which features a variety of architectural styles on tree-lined streets.
  • Woodbridge: Located across the John C. Lodge Freeway, M-10, from Wayne State's main campus, the neighborhood was originally developed starting in 1870 with many upper class houses, and is seeing rapid redevelopment thanks to its close proximity to Wayne State.
    Southwest Side 
Southwest Side: Historically working class due to the large amount of local factories, it's still being kept together north of the I-75 freeway, thanks in major part to Mexican-American immigrants.
  • Boynton and Oakwood Heights: Two adjacent neighborhoods southwest of Delray and Springwells that both make up the southernmost section of the City of Detroit, thanks to their being sandwiched between the cities of Dearborn, Melvindale, River Rouge, Ecorse, and Lincoln Park; they became infamously notorious for severe pollution originating from local industrial complexes, to the point that the 48217 ZIP Code, which is shared by these neighborhoods, is frequently ranked as Michigan's most polluted ZIP Code. Tons of houses that were too close to Marathon's refinery have been demolished in an attempt to mitigate this.
  • Corktown: Detroit's original Irish neighborhood, which dates back to the 1850s, it is still primarily residential, featuring small Victorian workers' cottages, despite being right across the Lodge Freeway from downtown. It was cut in half in The '60s by the construction of I-75, with the northern half becoming North Corktown, and the southernmost portion similarly was demolished and redeveloped into an industrial development known as West Side Industrial. The Tigers called this neighborhood home from 1896 to 1999 before their relocation to downtown.
  • Delray: Originally a Hungarian neighborhood, it fell on hard times in The '70s and has never recovered since. The fact that numerous industrial buildings are in the area (including the Ford River Rouge Complex and Zug Island) and that a decent chunk of the neighborhood was recently wiped out to make room for a second bridge to Canada doesn't help matters much.
  • Hubbard Farms: Located across I-75 from the American customs plaza for the Ambassador Bridge, this neighborhood features architectural styles spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries along its residential streets, and is also home to Clark Park.
  • Hubbard-Richard: Located south of Michigan Central Station and sandwiched by Hubbard Farms to the west and Corktown to the east; the Basilica of Ste. Anne de Detroitnote  church forms a backdrop for housing from a multilude of eras and a small smattering of retail to the north.
  • Mexicantown and Springwells: Two neighborhoods that span along Vernor Highway from Corktown to the border with the City of Dearborn, about half of their residents are Mexican-American. Mexican restaurants and bakeries are abundant here, and it has seen some gentrification since The '90s.

Films set in Detroit or its nearby communities:

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Video games set in Detroit:

Musical acts from Detroit:

Professional Wrestlers from Detroit:

Celebrities from Detroit: