Introduction to Detroit

Detroit Institute of Arts

Detroit has long been recognized as the historic heart of the automobile industry. Ford, GM and Chrysler are all headquartered in Metro Detroit, and many foreign automakers have research and development facilities in Southeast Michigan. Detroit is known worldwide as the “Motor City.” Detroit also has a rich music history. Motown Records was founded by an auto plant worker, Barry Gordy Jr., in the late 1950’s. Motown Records became home to some of the most popular recording stars in the world, including Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross & the Supremes and many others.

Detroit is an international city. Detroit and its neighboring Canadian city Windsor are connected through a tunnel and by the Ambassador Bridge, the busiest international crossing in North America. An additional bridge is under construction. The busy Detroit Metropolitan Airport serves as a hub for Delta, with direct flights to Europe and Asia.

The City of Detroit anchors the third largest economic region in the Midwest and the fourteenth largest in the United States. The city is home to many cultural assets including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Detroit Historical Museum, the Michigan Science Center, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Michigan Opera Theatre, and the Detroit Jazz Festival.

The Gateway to Freedom sculpture in Hart Plaza

Since emerging from bankruptcy in 2014, the city has been enjoying a renaissance. The momentum has reached a sustainable level that is evident by investment activity and redevelopment. Examples of Detroit’s resurgence are exemplified by Bedrock Real Estate Services, which purchased over 100 properties approaching a value of $3.5 billion in Downtown. In addition, First Martin Corporation recently completed a 140,000 square foot regional headquarters facility for Google, and in June 2018, Ford Motor Company announced its purchase of the old Michigan Central Station and other sites in Corktown for a high tech campus.

A house in the Delray neighborhood of Detroit. (Bridge photo by Anthony Lanzilote)

While a much valued expansion of new business and new housing has been taking place in Downtown and Midtown, concerns are rising about the gentrification effects of such growth on older residents and long-term businesses, forced to relocate or close as a result of higher rents and other economic pressures. Some Black citizens and neighborhoods eye the insurgence of young, middle-class whites into Downtown and Midtown fearfully and decry the lack of resources in their neighborhoods for recreation, new infrastructure, and economic investment.