Acropolis now

The tourists, they love the ruins. They’ll turn out with their cameras, night or day, rain or shine; that’s the main reason they went to Athens. Or to Rome. Or to, um, Detroit?

Detroit has a vast supply of decayed and vacant buildings, many of them architectural treasures. Even if [the Michigan Central Depot] is somehow restored, it will be one of only a handful saved, while so many others will languish for some time. Many, like the Lafayette Building, may become so damaged that they have to be torn down.

What if instead of spending a huge amount of money to try to save one building, the city found a little bit of money to do basic maintenance to preserve the structural integrity of many buildings — and create a safe path through parts of them that tourists could walk through similar to how ancient ruins are displayed in Europe. Heck, don’t even clean the buildings up. That saves money and makes them even more impressive to visitors. This could preserve more structures for the long haul, and create a tourist attraction. The structures can always [be] renovated later when demand warrants.

Actually, the tourists are already coming whether it is authorized or not. Thirty folks a day at MCD is pretty impressive. Imaging putting a string of these sites together — probably including many of the same ones we’ve seen photographed before — and allowing tours. And of course marketing the heck out of it.

I know this mindset better than I probably should admit: the first time I visisted Cleveland, I threaded through some back streets to get a look at an abandoned steel mill. (Two years would elapse before I bothered to drop in at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.)

And when you get right down to it, I’d rather see buildings in some degree of disrepair than an array of shiny new parking lots, as is the practice in some cities I could name.



  1. Donna B. »

    13 March 2010 · 2:55 am

    My one and only trip to Detroit was 3 years ago. There’s a difference between blight and ruin. Perhaps Detroit suffers from both, but only ruin attracts large numbers of tourists and most of what Detroit offers is blight.

  2. McGehee »

    13 March 2010 · 10:28 am

    I’d say the main difference between blight and ruin is probably whether people still live in it.

    If you call that living.

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