Detroit attracting city lovers with adventurous spirit
Detroit has become a cool destination for adventure seekers of all ages. While the growing young professional population is well documented, empty nests are creeping in and are definitely not looking for a quiet age community.
Maria Urguidi followed the move in Detroit from her rural home in Upper New York state. The recently retired IT professional heard reports on urban horticulture, the art scene, business development and the overall new sense of urbanity in the city.
“This is a changing city,” she says. “There is no place like this in the world. There are things that are tried here because our problems are so great. The barriers to entry are lower. It seems to be an exciting time in the history of the city.
“I look forward to trying new things.” Four years ago, when the city was still ravaged by the recession, she believed something dramatic was happening. “I said, ‘I have to go there. It happens.'”
Urguidi, an avid cyclist, was intrigued by the opportunity to get one of the Lousy townhouses in Lafayette Park at an affordable price. “I would tell my friends, who thought I was crazy from the start, that I came for the architecture, but I stay for the people. I love Detroiters. They are the nicest people I have ever met.”
Tom Albrecht loved his Manhattan life but the opportunity to head sales for the new The Cobo Center seemed irresistible. Albrecht is originally from Milford and never thought he would return here, even though his mother and future spouse were here.
“Before I retired, I thought, what are the benefits of retiring to Detroit?” He could repeat his urban lifestyle at the Jeffersonian, a few miles from Cobo. He rents a prime corner unit on the 27th floor that has priceless views of the river and Belle Isle, with sunrise and sunset on the same balcony.
Albrecht went to Wayne State University in the 1970s. “I remember other hopeful moments in the city’s history when the economy collapsed.” The waves of change would come and wash away. It’s different this time, he says; it is “sustainable”.
While doing an inventory of the city, he found that it had “become a very interesting place. Young people come to the city because they see it as a place with great opportunities at a low cost compared to other urban centers”.
Mary Baumgartner also remembers Detroit in the 1970s. She attended the Mercy Law School from the University of Detroit and lived in Lafayette Park. Then the cool places were Greektown and the warehouse district. She grew up on the west side and never lost her love for the city. She and her husband moved to Ferndale, raised a family, and ended up in Pleasant Ridge. Then there was a divorce.
Baumgartner was a traveler with an “adventurous spirit” but not taken great risks. She was drawn to her old hometown. “When I was thinking of where to go to find social activity, I was drawn to town. I could have gone to Royal Oakwhere a lot of people go, or Birmingham. Personally, I prefer more variety and have always loved Detroit. And the cultural aspects of Detroit attracted me. “
She wondered if she should move to downtown Midtown. in an apartment, high-rise or attic. She decided to buy a house Sherwood Forest in a foreclosure sale. The neighborhood was similar to Pleasant Ridge, but closer to the heart of town.
She attended Detroit Synergy meetings, afterwards had dinner with people her age, and discovered many places unknown to her former suburban neighbors. A friend persuaded her to ride with a group of bikes. It wasn’t long before she started taking regular organized trips around town.
“I was concerned – a person my age – that it was going to be 20 and not the right person. I found that there was a wide range of ages of people (and) social activities.”
Urguidi participates in the month Critical mass ride and comfortable biking alone downtown. “I like being able to run and ride my bike anywhere. I try not to use my car. I feel safe going home on my bike at night. I wouldn’t go home at 11 o’clock at night.”
However, Lafayette Park is an “enclave,” she says. “That’s the biggest thing that bothers me about Detroit. Right now there are two Detroits. There’s downtown / Midtown and then the rest of Detroit, where people wait two hours for a bus to go to church on Sunday morning and lose their jobs because the bus is unreliable and doesn’t have a decent grocery store in their neighborhood. “
She is looking for a socially entrepreneurial opportunity to make a name for herself in the Detroit revitalization. “I think people who have lived in Detroit for a long time have a hard time imagining that someone would move here. I tell them how much I like it and how happy I am with my decision.”
Detroit is a friendly place, she says, especially the clergy. “I have met many ministers here who have made me more involved in a church than in the last 60 years of my life. They are involved in their community. They are like the heart of their community. I am sorry I won’t be here sooner. “
Albrecht, a member of the The Detroit Yacht Club, which rows with the Detroit Boat Club crew, adds, “For me, it’s both the routine and the unexpected opportunity to learn something every time you walk out the door. Detroit has that. New York City had that. This is a very exciting time to be in this city. ”
Dennis Archambault is a Detroit-based freelance writer.
Photos by Marvin Shaouni