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The Post-Post-Apocalyptic Detroit

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http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/13/magazine/the-post-post-apocalyptic-detroit.html?ref=business&_r=0

In downtown Detroit, at the headquarters of the online-mortgage company Quicken Loans, there stands another downtown Detroit in miniature. The diorama, made of laser-cut acrylic and stretching out over 19 feet in length, is a riot of color and light: Every structure belonging to Quicken’s billionaire owner, Dan Gilbert, is topped in orange and illuminated from within, and Gilbert currently owns 60 of them, a lordly nine million square feet of real estate in all. He began picking up skyscrapers just three and a half years ago, one after another, paying as little as $8 a square foot. He bought five buildings surrounding Capitol Park, the seat of government when Michigan became a state in 1837. He snapped up the site of the old Hudson’s department store, where 12,000 employees catered to 100,000 customers daily in the 1950s. Many of Gilbert’s purchases are 20th-century architectural treasures, built when Detroit served as a hub of world industry. He bought a Daniel Burnham, a few Albert Kahns, a Minoru Yamasaki masterwork with a soaring glass atrium. “They’re like old-school sports cars,” said Dan Mullen, one of the executives who took over Quicken’s newly formed real estate arm. “These were buildings with so much character, so much history. They don’t exist anywhere else. And it was like, ‘Buy this parking garage, and we’ll throw in a skyscraper with it.’ ”

..

Gilbert believes in Detroit, not just as a partisan local booster but in his bones as a businessman. And his belief has a perverse sort of economic logic undergirding it. At the start of the 1950s, the Big Three car companies began to leave the city, seeking lower taxes and lower wages and brand-new corporate campuses elsewhere, and they whittled their work forces through automation. Most retail and other manufacturing jobs and almost all of the white residents followed suit, fleeing en masse to the suburbs or to other places entirely. In the half-century since, the city’s population has sunk to 700,000 from a peak of close to two million, and almost a third of its vast housing stock sits vacant. But this means that property costs have dropped to the point that barriers to ownership — to a sort of mogulhood, even — are absurdly low. Some of the city’s competitive advantages remain, including a world-class transportation network of roads and rail and waterways, with almost half of U.S. imports from Canada passing through. Even Detroit’s bankruptcy filing in December (making it the largest American city ever to take such a step) has its upsides. For everyone other than the city’s 32,000 pensioners and 100,000 creditors, the default should make Detroit less dysfunctional and more attractive. And in downtown, at least, Gilbert’s campaign seems to be paying dividends: Occupancy in residential real estate has climbed to 99 percent, and office vacancies are at 11 percent, the lowest rate in decades.

Can Detroit review it's fortunes?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b049bcfb/stacey-dooley-in-the-usa-series-2-2-homeless-in-detroit

Although having watched this the other night it doesn't appear to be an appealing city.

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Can Detroit review it's fortunes?

Nothing's going to improve in Detroit so long as it's run by tax-and-give-the-money-to-our-cronies lefties.

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