If, like many others, Detroit fascinates and attracts you … here is an afternoon’s worth of Detroit reading from Christianity Today’s feature This Is Our City.

Aaron Renn shares his view on What Detropia Gets Right, and Gets Wrong about the film Detropia.  I haven’t yet seen Detropia but I saw Detroit first-hand for six years at the turn of the century.  I left ten years ago but yet return a couple times a year to see the city.  I also talk regularly with colleagues working in Detroit.

We aren’t the only ones fascinated and attracted to Detroit.  Detropia features two Swiss tourist-artists visiting “decay”.  They wear gold gask masks, make art, and leave.  The scene reveals them “as an almost literal alien presence in the city, invaders from outer space.”

In Detroit much is other-worldly.  Pheasants running across Chicago near Sacred Heart Seminary or in abandoned factory yards.  Young people would ask what kind of bird is that?  The amazing Oz experience of Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Project.  Peacocks stutting in back yards of homes just west of Woodward.  Entire houses denuded overnight of exterior bricks.  Red Wings fans from the suburbs I’m joking.Heidelberg project

Renn’s voice does not persuade me.  Detropia points out artists, entrepreneurs and other outsiders now coming to Detroit for opportunity.  Some see them as “invaders”.  But who are the Detroiters, the excluded people, who Renn presumes will be left out of these opportunities?  Since he seems to be assuming that these Detroit opportunities are golden he asks  “where is the benefit to the city if the people who live there are excluded?”

Fashionable cynicism, yawn.  We may be better being cynical as to whether there will be any return on the investment made by these invaders.  When will it pay off?  Frankly, I don’t see this an issue.

And if “someone from the outside sees in Detroit an opportunity for themselves” how does this differ from the early 20th century waves of automotive job seekers, white and black, who moved to Detroit during the rise of Henry Ford?

Renn’s concern reminds me of the concerned government we faced in attempting to purchase Detroit land for a new building to replace our Salvation Army facility on Grand River at Dundee.  A combination of city zoning and its development plan prevented us from buying lots on Grand River.  Lots filled with abandoned retail buildings.  The city said, oh, we need to keep these for retail development.

Today those lots are yet undeveloped.  With those abandoned buildings now crumbling.  Twenty years later.

Yes, we can fear, be suspicious, there may be Detroiters resentful of any enterprising outsiders arriving in their wilderness.  But my experience with Detroiters living in the neighborhoods far from downtown (where there’s some sign of development)?

They would welcome some sign of hope, of new life.  Even it it may seem from Mars.Heidelberg project 2