Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis

Detroit City is the Place to Be

By Mark Binelli

Once America’s capitalist dream town, Detroit is our country’s greatest urban failure, having fallen the longest and the farthest. But the city’s crisis has managed to do the unthinkable: turn the end of days into a laboratory for the future. Urban planners, land speculators, neopastoral agriculturalists, and utopian environmentalists—all have been drawn to Detroit’s baroquely decaying, nothing-left-to-lose frontier.

Throughout the city’s “museum of neglect”—its swaths of abandoned buildings, its miles of urban prairie—he tracks both the blight and the signs of its repurposing, from the school for pregnant teenagers to a beleaguered UAW local; from metal scrappers and gun-toting vigilantes  to artists reclaiming abandoned auto factories; from the organic farming on empty lots to GM’s risky wager on the Volt electric car; from firefighters forced by budget cuts to sleep in tents to the mayor’s realignment plan (the most ambitious on record) to move residents of half-empty neighborhoods into a viable, new urban center.

Sharp and impassioned, Detroit City Is the Place to Be is alive with the sense of possibility that comes when a city hits rock bottom. Beyond the usual portrait of crime, poverty, and ruin, we glimpse a longshot future Detroit that is smaller, less segregated, greener, economically diverse, and better functioning—what could be the boldest reimagining of a post-industrial city in our new century.

About the Author

Mark Binelli is the author of the novel Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! and a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and Men’s Journal. Born and raised in the Detroit area, he now lives in New York City.

Related Events

Mark Binelli

Author Visit: Mark Binelli Talks Detroit City

Thursday, June 20, 2013, 7:00 pm
Main Library – 111 Library Street NE

Join our special guest Mark Binelli as he reads from his book, Detroit City Is the Place to Be. Binelli will highlight some of the movements taking place among the post-industrial landscape of Detroit. Like a blank canvas, Detroit is beginning to be seen by many as a place of possibility. While some see empty lots, other see fields for planting. In addition to reading from his book, Binelli will give a presentation on Detroit as it is today and what the future may hold for it. A book signing will follow the presentation.

Dianne Carroll Burdick

Urban Photo Safari

Monday, June 24, 2013, 7:00 pm
Meet at the Main Library – 111 Library Street NE

Photographer Dianne Carroll Burdick will lead a photography walk through downtown Grand Rapids. Learn tips and tricks for shooting urban architecture and discover interesting vantage points and compositions. Bring your own camera. All skill levels welcome. Participants can submit their favorite photo from the photo safari to be displayed at the Main Library during ArtPrize.

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

City Park Clean-Up Volunteer Program

Saturday, August 3, 2013, 10:00 am – 12:00 noon
Alger Park (corner of Edna St. & Blaine Ave.) – Meet at the splash pad

Enjoy the outdoors while helping clean up a city park. Whether you want to jog, walk your dog, take the kids to a playground, or just sit and smell the fresh air, we all need clean green spaces in the city. Vibrant parks and green spaces are essential to our well-being. Come join the Friends of the Grand Rapids Parks to scrape and paint the splash pad at Alger Park. All you’ll need to bring are your work gloves and lots of energy.