January 2011: I am preparing for my first real visit to Detroit, the city of my birth. I am a Californian, where I have been since age one when my parents packed me into a car to seek fame and fortune in LA. It is strange to be defined by something unknown but when asked if I am a "native" Californian, I answer, "No, I was born in Detroit." It seems time to investigate what that means. So I have come "home" on my birthday to photograph Detroit.

This blog is part of an accompanying journal about the project.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

And speaking of bridges to theCity...

I haven't followed this discussion very much, but I am now familiar with the name of the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, the present over-water link between Detroit and Windsor, CA.   Manuel "Matty" Maroun is also the owner of the Michigan Central Station, Detroit's iconic beautiful station that has fallen into such disrepair and stands as a symbol for all that has happened to this city.

Without learning much more for the moment, the Daily Show's take on the controversy about Canada's offer to build a new bridge is telling....

Some ideas are crazier than others...

Instead of fixing the city, good old American capitalism suggests the purchase of Belle Isle, a historic and so beautiful piece of land in the Detroit River that has been an escape for Detroiters for centuries, seceding it from the United States and making it a tax haven, a commonwealth for the wealthy. 

Yes it could bring a very needed One Billion Dollars to Detroit but we are back to times, even if it were legal which it is probably not, when a proposal such as this falls between one's soul and one's sense of well-being.   At the same time, it will become a fascinating discussion of what it really takes to help Detroit.

In many ways a suggestion such as this belies the very serious, also wealthy. corporations and individuals who are proposing, yes, radical schemes, that are concurrently healthy and forward looking for the PEOPLE as well.

Developer pitches $1B commonwealth for Belle Isle

This futuristic rendering of Belle Isle is one where it is a commonwealth separate from the U.S. with a unique governing tax system. (Artist's rendering)  From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130112/BIZ/301120319#ixzz2HmOhbhBV

This futuristic rendering of Belle Isle is one where it is a commonwealth separate from the U.S. with a unique governing tax system.

This futuristic rendering of Belle Isle is one where it is a commonwealth separate from the U.S. with a unique governing tax system. (Artist's rendering

On a day in May 2011, arriving in the city in unseasonably hot and humid weather, I drove out to Belle Isle in late afternoon to see kids hanging on the perimeter road, cruising a little with music blending with the heavy atmosphere; families out for an end of winter picnic as the sun descending.  It felt free and safe in a city that does not often feel as such.

The land mass of Detroit is large, approx 120 square miles, with no doubt lots of land for parks and recreation but to develop it for commerce takes away its heritage and its romance.  I am naive to feel that one needs romance and mystery - a island across a bridge, a short one for sure, but even a bridge to nature, to relaxation;  destination within a city, is enough to hold citizens together, to meet on equal terms and understand how we all can combine to work and live.

From the article about other proposals for the city, some almost as crazy but some with more logic and human consideration behind them, especially from Detroit Future City: "It envisions a smaller city where the swaths of empty and blighted land become urban/green neighborhoods full of trees, ponds and urban farms. Detroit has 40 square miles of vacant land, according to city officials. That's close to the total land area of San Francisco.
"Even with all that vacant land, the wide open spaces of Belle Isle are unique. To decommission Belle Isle would be a great loss of a public purpose area," said John Mogk, a Wayne State University law professor who follows urban planning issues."