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21 Signs of Life in Detroit

Bree McKenna

By Jeff Myers

“Detroiters are prideful people,” says Jeff Myers, who should know. Born in Detroit in 1974, Myers has lived in and around the downtown for the past 16 years. His day job as a facilities manager at a digital agency doesn’t interfere with his near-daily hobby: chronicling his troubled native city’s slow rebirth.

On his walks to and from work, he captures on his iPhone snapshots of architecture old and new, signs, intersections, even spring tulips—a mix that could be summed up as the hopeful and the historic. “I see a beautiful city. In all its grime, as well as all its glitz,” he says. “It’s complex. It's like no other city in the U.S.”

Asked by Middleouest to show us his Detroit, Myers delivered these 21 images. “I feel like I'm letting people in on a secret I've known for a long time. I want other people to see the beauty I see.”

1 | “This ‘Nothing Stops Detroit’ neon sign is on Woodward in the heart of downtown. It’s kind of the ‘new’ Detroit mantra towards moving the city forward. When I first moved downtown, in 2000, living around here was way against the norm. But there was real hope at the time—the Tigers had built a new stadium, the Lions had a new stadium. Then the housing market crashed and everything . . . stopped. There was a long, uncertain time, but in the past 24 months everything has snowballed. Downtown is now full of people in their 20s. Folks, like me, who've been living here a while—we call ourselves Detroit 1.0. We've made a joke of it for those who talk about Detroit 2.0. ” 

2 | “The lobby of the David Whitney Building, which was built in 1915. It’s now the Aloft Detroit, a hotel. So there's beautiful original architecture paired with stylish modern rooms. This building had been vacant for decades and reopened just over a year ago.”

3 | “Standing in Grand Circus Park, the view of the David Broderick Tower (left) and the David Whitney Building (right). These buildings are now restored and occupied after decades of decay.”

4 | “The historic Fox Theater marquee, recently restored and updated.”


5 | “Construction of the new Red Wings Stadium, which they’re going to call Little Caesars Arena. People here are not very happy about that name. It sits just a block north of downtown in what is to be called 'The District,' connecting downtown to the trendy Midtown, which people used to refer to as the Cass Corridor.”

6 | “The beginning of the new M-1 Rail (recently named the QLINE), a line that will stretch 3.3 miles north from the core of downtown through Midtown and up to New Center. At one time, Cass Corridor was the skid row of Detroit—a really rough area. Now they’ve re-branded it, and it’s this hip area where Shinola is headquartered.”

7 | “Lower Woodward, just off of Campus Martius. Campus Martius is now the central gathering point in the city. There are food trucks, and people play live music in the summer, and there's ice skating in the winter.”

8 | “Griswold Street facing south towards the Detroit River and Windsor, Ontario. It's unique to have another country right across the river."

9 | “The John Varvatos retail store in the historic Wright-Kay Building (also called the Schwankovsky Temple of Music) now also houses the popular Wright & Co. gastropub on the second floor.”

10 | "This crane game sits at the entrance to Green Dot Stables, one of the most popular new restaurants in the city. It’s a major success story considering its location.”

11 | “Looking into the Guardian Building in the early morning. This Art Deco masterpiece sits within the rapidly growing Central Business District. The dim light of the coming day accents the beautiful warm interior of the lobby, which is magnificent."

12 | “Also in the business district sits the historic First National Building, which is now full of tenants like Roasting Plant coffee and Central Kitchen, a restaurant.”

13 | “In the Central Business District, office space is suddenly at a premium for the first time in decades.”

14 | “The inside of the recently renovated Cobo Center, where the North American Auto Show takes place. The Penobscot Building is at the top right.”

15 | “Many of these hand painted murals and signs are disappearing from the downtown landscape, and I'm trying to document them before they're gone. The salsa photo is just one of the old painted wooded signs that's still there, on the outside of the old Loco Bar in Bricktown. I just like the folk art aspect of it.”

16 | "The '8 Mile' photo was from the drivers side door of a tow truck. I thought it looked cool, and 8 Mile has always been known as the great divide between the city and suburbs. That line is finally starting to fade a little."

17 | “The bobble head chess game was set up outside of Comerica Park for the Tigers Opening Day festivities. Opening Day is still an unofficial holiday here in Detroit. It signals the beginning of spring after the long Michigan winter."

18 | The Stroh’s photo is from the Garden Bowl, one of the oldest bowling alleys in the U.S. Stroh’s was brewed in the area for 135 years before the company left Detroit in 1985.”

19 | “This view from the restored Campus Martius really hits the Detroit 2.0 vibe. It’s what you see looking up at the Soldiers & Sailors statue.”

20 | “A stadium construction sign on Woodward just north of downtown. You can see the Fox Theater in the distance. Downtown Detroit hasn’t experienced this amount of restoration, new construction and upgraded infrastructure in 30-plus years."

21 | “A sign on the window of one of the many new businesses in downtown. Detroit was always here, waiting. Now it’s being discovered and shaped by a new generation—a generation that has cast aside the stereotypes and stigmas of the past."



Jeff Myers is a Detroit native.