The Rebirth of a Great American City
Detroit is probably not the first city that comes to mind when you think about a thriving downtown that is a financial and cultural hub. Detroit isn’t typically known for its modern advances, but more as a place with a golden past, from music to the automobile industry. However, Detroit is coming back, and I had the chance to experience the rebirth of this great American city firsthand.
During its hay-day in the 1950s, Detroit had the 5th largest population in the country, a booming industry, and was called the “Paris of the West”. The Motown music scene swept the city in the 1960s with great artist such as The Temptations, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Marvin Gaye and many others. More recently, Detroit has been the epicenter of a major downfall and rebirth of the automotive industry and had become more well-known for the trials and tribulations depicted in the movie “8-Mile” than the upbeat sounds of “My Girl”.
I was surprised when USGBC announced that their 2014 Midyear Meeting would be in Detroit; not a city that came to my mind when thinking of sustainable building and “green” achievements. However, after attending the meeting, I can see how Detroit is making leaps and strides toward a sustainable future. In the past decades, private investors have pumped billions of dollars into the downtown area of Detroit, with hopes of bringing life back to the city. Unlike many other major cities, Detroit’s revitalization has focused on preserving the existing buildings and marvelous architecture that defines the city. Within just a few blocks of the conference, I counted over twenty buildings that were under renovation, rather than razing and starting anew. The hotel I stayed in, The Book-Cadillac Westin, is a great example of this success, with many modern amenities, technologies, and sustainable design components. The redesign team decided to leave the beauty and extravagance of the original hotel but incorporate energy efficient LED lighting, low-flow faucets and shower-heads, and the reuse of original materials during renovation.
I could go on and on: about the beautiful architecture in the financial district, the extensive new green construction, and renovation and remodeling; but instead, I invite you to visit Detroit and see for yourself. Next time you are looking for a weekend getaway, think first of Detroit. The people are friendly, the food will make your mouth water, the music will make you dance, and the architecture and spirit of revitalization will excite your passion and capture your imagination. Detroit is truly a great American city that is pushing forward with sustainable redevelopment into the 21st Century.