10 Shortcuts to Falling in Love with Detroit

Nearly four years ago, my husband and I left the Detroit suburbs and made the move to the city. The kids were out of the house and we wanted to experience the diverse aspects of this intriguing urban setting. We consider it an adventure and were intent on committing to Detroit in a variety of ways including settling in downtown.

I grew up in the city and when I describe Detroit, the word “beloved” comes to mind. But the reaction from suburban friends was initially less than stellar. Undaunted, I made it my goal to often wade through the code they spoke and address their concerns straight on.

What’s happened has been nothing short of amazing.

Ten things they said Before and what they say Now:

1.     Before – You won’t meet people like you (code: White and suburban)

Typical. Crowds gather at an Eastern Market food truck event.







Now – You’re introducing me to the nicest folks. I’m diggin’ this diversity.




2.     Before: You won’t be able to walk anywhere (code: You’re probably gonna be accosted)

Woohoo, my downtown Detroit neighborhood







Now – I can’t believe we can walk to Lions games from your place!




3.    Before – There are no grocery stores (code: This shell of a city is a food dessert)

If you haven’t, check-out Germack’s in the Eastern Market neighborhood



Now – I’m surprised by the number of great food markets. Plus, I could go to Eastern Market every week.
(How did this myth get started anyway? There are 83 full service stores in the city)




4.   Before – There’s nothing to do in that city (code: I haven’t set foot there in ages)

Snapped this one as the Branford Marsalas jazz group played at Jazz Fest Hart Plaza






Now – The concerts and music in Detroit are nonstop. If you wanted, you could go out every night.





5.   Before – Won’t you miss your garden, living in a high-rise? (code: When you gonna see terra firma?)

Hubby – or should I say ‘Farmer’ Phil (way in the back) overseeing our urban garden on John R.






Now – The community urban gardening movement is, well, blooming. By the way, will we be getting more of your veggies this summer?





6.   Before – There are no parks (code: What is there besides the concrete and burned out houses?)

Hard to beat Campus Martius on a great day







Now – Hey, could we walk over to Campus Martius …. again?




7.   Before – There will be people asking you for money all the time (code: I don’t want to deal with the panhandlers)
I say cm’on – what big city doesn’t have this issue? Ok, anyway …

One of my favorites: City Year Detroit (cityyear.org). where you commit to a year of volunteer service – this gentleman is helping the reading program, which is our volunteer interest too







Now – I love how you’re supporting the community through volunteering. How’s the reading program coming?




8. Before – I’ll be afraid to visit you (code: I could get my car stolen)

One of the charming many: City Theatre in Hockeytown Cafe






Now – There’s a new play I read about. Are you up for a visit, we’ll drive down tonight?






9.    Before – You won’t be safe inside or outside (code: I know what I read in the papers!)

Loving quirky boutique The Peacock Room in Midtown






Now – I hear there’s a great vintage store in Midtown. Can we come down and maybe stroll around the area. It’s a real neighborhood!





10.  Before – (And my Favorite) That’s great, Mom and Dad. You’ll be making a difference (code: We support you in your choices)

Can I brag? My daughter Tammy (from Dallas), me, my son Todd (South Lyon MI), my son Craig (Seattle), my niece Angela (Birmingham, MI) – outside Comerica Park




NowI say our kids were positive from the beginning. And are even more now that they know how much we take advantage of all Detroit has to offer and how we, in turn, give back to the city. Their visits are frequent and they’re also thrilled with how vibrant the city has become in the past four years. They’ve got the urban attitude and the urban heart. What’s not to like?




Detroit, you either get it or you don’t.




About Joanne

Joanne McNary qualifies as having a full-on case of “Detroit-itis,” a condition characterized by swooning at the sight of new business openings, cheering on women leaders and going gaga over local theatre. She grew up in the city and found her way back four years ago - now dwelling in downtown. Joanne's "Deeply Detroit" blog highlights Detroit's crazy patchwork of neighborhoods percolating with the miracles that are breathing new life into the city. She revels always in the warmth of her family. Her children, their spouses and one spectacular granddaughter are her treasures. In Joanne's mind, Twitter rules. Follow her on @DetroitRocks.

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