In Michigan, the clich "the hustle and bustle of the city" should be rephrased "the hustle and bustle of the suburbs". No longer is our city of Detroit the hub of the state, or even a city that most Michiganders are proud of. Today, the city of Detroit, which was once a leading metropolis of the world, is taking a back seat to Michigan's suburbs in terms of residential, business and industrial growth.
Forty years ago, " I live in Detroit" was a statement that was honored by all citizens of the United States as Detroit was a prospering city with many job and residential opportunities. In the four decades proceeding the fifties, the city lost approximately two-fifths of its population. Many of the residents, as well as businesses and industries, moved to the developing suburbs; taking advantage of the cheaper land while avoiding the supposition made about an increase in crime and poverty due to minority groups locating to the inner-city. These days, if you say "I live in Detroit", assumptions are quickly made about your living status and state of mind. Although parts of Detroit still retain their original beauty, the inner city is seen as a crime-riddled, poverty-stricken and overall unfavorable place to reside.
Suburbs: the word brings to mind many adjectives such as comfortable, quiet, safe and convenient. They are the havens of middle- to upper-class citizens. They produce less crime, good education and an over all sense of well-being. "Suburbs are definitely the place to invest in these days," states Timothy Findlay, an executive at K-mart World Headquarters in Troy. "I live here because I know my property value is going to increase, and I'm a hop, skip and a jump from where I work. In addition, suburbs have everything that you need to exist, minus the crime and poverty of Detroit." Findlay and a majority of suburbanites agree that Suburbs have a much more practical means of living versus the risks and possible dangers of city living.
On the other hand, Thomas Panzenhagen, a sports editor for the Detroit Free Press disagrees. "I have lived and worked in Detroit for twenty years and I can't imagine being anywhere else," he says. "I have done the suburb thing and I can't stand the attitudes of the people that live there. Everyone is so image-conscious. If your lawn is not perfectly manicured and you don't regularly associate with your neighbors, you are shunned. In addition, I don't need people knowing what salary I bring home, as everyone in your suburban neighborhood has a good idea of what you make." This is the viewpoint of many city dwellers, states Panzenhagen. He also says that he is not affected by crime and poverty where he lives. "It is made out to be more than it really is."
Detroit is in the process of a major industrial renovation. Blue chip companies such as General Motors and major sport teams as the Detroit Lions are relocating there and enterprises such as the MGM Grand Casino are setting up shop. City dwellers and suburbanites alike hope that these changes will have a positive affect on their city, although many believe that places such as the new casino will only have a negative affect on its economy, image and mission. "Casinos do well in theme park cities such as Las Vegas and Reno, not in a city like Detroit. We need to develop Detroit's historical past and dwell on things such as the arts," believes Panzenhagen.
While the city is under major construction, its counterpart is in no part struggling to keep up. "The suburbs are alive," says Dr. Thomas Bonifer, a former resident of Detroit and current resident of Bloomfield Hills. "They keep growing and expanding in every aspect without a great deal of purposeful planning like the push for industrial and residential growth in Detroit." Bonifer believes that Detroit is a place where single people without families can live in relative content, as the cost of living is much lower. "I attended medical school at Wayne State and completed my residency at Henry Ford Hospital, so I've spent a good deal of time in Detroit. Though I can say that living in the city was a great experience for me, I don't think that it is an ideal place to raise a family. Back in '86 my car was stripped while it was in my apartment parking lot. The following year, my best friend was car-jacked and mugged. As of yet, nothing of the like has happened to me in Bloomfield." From a residential point of view, the suburbs are the more practical place to raise kids. Education is statistically at a much higher standard in the suburbs. In addition, suburban neighborhoods are safer in terms of access and use of drugs and weapons while there is a much lower prevalence of gang involvement.
Suburbs are often seen as the "white world"- that is, the idealistic location in which the average white person would want to live. LeOnce Davila, a resident of Detroit, works at a restaurant in Troy as a waiter. "I come here to work from the city because the wage is better, not to mention the tips. Some of my friends think that I'm foolish to waste my employment in the suburbs but I'm not really bothered by them. Some day I would like to live out here. This is definitely the area that I'd want to raise a family, but until I can afford it, I'll stay in Detroit. Besides, my entire family lives in the city and given that I have grown-up in Detroit, it will always be my real home, the place where I became me." Davila says that his friends and family think of areas like Troy as wealthy and white, without any culture. "People can be really unfriendly in the suburbs, unlike at home, where everyone says 'Hi'. And there is no real culture out here. In my neighborhood everybody celebrates our past because we are proud of it."
The suburbs of Detroit are thriving on the downfall of the city. Much of their business and industrial growth is due to the relocation of major companies from Detroit. Ultimately, while some "Detroiters" have stayed loyal and plan to remain in the city, many residents, minority or not, seem to have the ultimate ideal of relocating to the suburbs.