Detroit is 138.75 square miles, and that’s a lot of space. Much of it is so blighted it doesn’t resemble a city in peacetime. Its crime statistics regularly rank among the nation’s most dangerous. Overstretched city services have left many neighborhoods without any confidence in municipal government. In Detroit, DIY can mean using a handgun as much as a hammer. People have been fleeing this city for decades, and still more want out. Many can’t afford to move. They say there’s enough abandoned and vacant land in Detroit for several of those trendy coastal cities to entirely fit within the available space. Still, with all that notoriously cheap real estate, opportunity and optimism have been impossible to inhibit. People are once again moving to Detroit from all over the world, many with ideas that might never find the oxygen to get off the ground in other cities. A diverse group of Detroiters still believes in this city, from lifelong residents to these idealistic newcomers. These optimists include a young entrepreneurial class that still favors cooperation over competition, passionate food growers and culinarians, community-focused educators, and an influx of DIY-minded tinkerers who are building a new kind of city in the ashes of the greatest visible failure of industrial America. When you are surrounded by failure on all sides, you might just find the inspiration for something that actually works.
Dark Rye brought its cameras to Detroit and discovered just a few of the people helping rebuild this city. The Detroiters in these stories are a great example of how individuals are working together to grow and build things in Detroit, from the soil to the streets and from the workshops to an automobile factory transformed into a pickling plant. In these videos, you’ll meet the McClure brothers, who used their family’s secret pickle recipe to do just that. The 26-year-old Andy Didorosi turned frustration over the Motor City’s failure to build a modern public transportation system into a private bus company designed to serve the existing needs of Detroiters. You’ll see how maker spaces like i3 Detroit have popped up all over the city to give its tinkerers a place to collaborate and learn new skills. And Chef Phil Jones of COLORS restaurant provides powerful testimony of how growing and preparing food is transforming lives and the city itself.
It takes grit to make it as a Detroiter. Those as stubborn as they are optimistic will do well here. If you don’t find what you like in Detroit, you can move along or you can do something about it. Dark Rye found just a few of those people doing something to make it better. Welcome to Detroit.