Welcome to our annual City Guide, where we explore some of the best our region has to offer, from A to Z (page 48).
While we were planning this issue, I acted as “tour guide” for a friend who recently moved back here after being gone 20-plus years. It was interesting seeing Detroit’s changes through his eyes.
We started down Jefferson Avenue in St. Clair Shores, noting new waterfront condos and brewpubs, then hit Lakeshore Drive through the Grosse Pointes (where frankly, not much ever changes). Heading into Detroit, he started asking questions. Where’s Van Dyke Place restaurant? (A shell of its former opulence.) Pinky’s on the Boulevard? (The site’s now a Tim Horton’s.)
We toured a spruced-up Belle Isle, then hit West Village, where former old favorite Harlequin Café is now CraftWork, along with “newcomers” Detroit Vegan Soul and Red Hook Coffee. Further down Jefferson, we checked out the Orleans Landing development and the bustling RiverWalk.
We headed up Woodward Avenue — or tried to. It was Meridian Winter Blast weekend; the roads were closed to accommodate throngs (!) of visitors. Instead, we took Michigan Avenue, noting Corktown’s loss of Tiger Stadium, new windows on a still vacant train station, and overpriced condos. Then it was a quick jaunt through New Center and a look at the QLine.
His take: pleasantly surprised. But I didn’t want to sugarcoat things. On the way home, we passed vast stretches of abandoned industrial buildings on McNichols Road, and blighted, near-vacant neighborhoods (save for some pheasants).
My take: Detroit is a city of juxtapositions — where gorgeous neighborhoods exist mere blocks from blight, and educated young professionals move downtown while impoverished neighborhoods suffer substandard schools. Yes, our City Guide shows off some worthy attractions and vast potential — but it’s a balancing act, and we’re still a work in progress.