Ravaged by daily fires—houses, cars, trash cans—the city of Detroit has lost more than 200,000 homes in fifty years, covering an area almost equivalent to that of Montreal. Although Detroit’s plight is all too easily compared to post-apocalyptic devastation, the fact that it escapes all logic gives it a tragic character.
Despite several attempts at revitalization centred on the Renaissance Center—a monolithic mirrored-glass building complex parachuted into downtown Detroit—the city’s social and urban fabric continues to unravel. Since the post-industrial era, globalization, the civil-rights riots of 1967, the exodus of half the population—mostly whites—Detroit’s population now hovers below a million—85% African-American—and continues to decline, while the surrounding suburbs continue to thrive. Indeed, the population keeps growing in the outlying suburbs, among the wealthiest in the country. All too palpable, the chasm between the inner city and the outskirts is that much wider in that it results from the lack of any collective vision. . . .