Detroit comeback? City sheds bad rep, hailed as ‘the next Paris or Rome’

From “most dangerous” to “most exciting,” a once-great American city could be on the rise again as it ranked alongside Martha’s Vineyard, Rome and Paris.

Motown may not be the first place that comes to mind when considering a vacation or a new place to live, but a concerted effort in marketing and revitalization suggested that the decline could be reversed in a big way.

Speaking with The Wall Street Journal, Claude Molinari, the CEO of the nonprofit Visit Detroit discussed some of the efforts to bring people back to the Motor City that had it included in a top 25 list of “Where to Go in 2024.”

“Come here, stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants, visit our attractions and find everything there is to do and see in Detroit,” said Molinari after the midwest metropolis found itself in Afar magazine’s November 2023 list with places like Machu Picchu and Tangier.

There was no sugarcoating the city’s reputation as the Murder City as the Journal indicated, “Detroit is better known today by another brand: America’s most dangerous city. When Gallup measured the perception of safety in major cities in 2006 and 2023, Detroit ranked dead last in both surveys. Even more depressing was that public opinion didn’t budge by a single percentage point over nearly two decades. The city’s homicide count last year was the lowest since the 1960s, and crime rates have fallen significantly even though they remain stubbornly high. Still, three of four Americans believe Detroit is unsafe.”

Even Molinari expressed the struggle to get past the perception of Detroit as he expressed to the newspaper, “I can’t tell you how often people will come here and be like, ‘I’m shocked!’ What did you expect? Did you think you would be dodging bullets or something?”

Of no surprise, reversing the Ferguson effect, an increase in violent crime where policing had been decreased, was readily remedied by giving law enforcement the necessary resources. Contrary to the wishes of the defund the police movement that would see cops replaced with social workers and prosecutors maintain soft-on-crime positions, crime rates in Detroit had trended down following the city’s 2022 contract that included an average $10,000 raise and made possible the addition of 200 officers.

Adding to the opportunity for a boom in the city, a decades-long exodus had left ample real estate available for savvy investors to enter into the market with Rocket Homes labeling the area a buyer’s market where the median sale price of a home was just over $80,000 as of March.

Supporting the notion that people were getting in on the new ground floor, compared to March 2023, the average time to sell a home had dropped by nearly 55%, taking less than 50 days compared to more than 100.

Combined with a $65 million upgrade to the Motown Museum and the reopening of Michigan Central Station slated this year after over three decades of vacancy, Molinari set a goal of 25 million annual visitors to Detroit before the year 2030 after bringing in over 17 million in 2023.

With 58% of travelers reportedly coming for leisure, he told the Journal, “If we can get ’em here, we’ll get ’em here.”

Kevin Haggerty

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