Nearly one-third of the land is unused, and some 80,000 homes are vacant. In documenting the Great Recession, few images are used more than those of a broken down Detroit — a city built for two million people, now home to half that number. Still, the departure of 1 million residents did not happen yesterday, or even in the past decade. People started leaving Detroit in the 1950s when Detroit’s auto industry started its slow decline — fewer jobs, racial violence, drug wars and a series of other problems has kept the city spiraling downward.
The Motor City, though, has not been forgotten. In addition to the recent bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, the federal government in 2008 invested $18.4 billion in the city and the surrounding county. Still, the city is treading water. Locally, however, there is a whole host of people — some with grand schemes, others with more modest notions — who will not give up on the city.
PROJECT POWER HOUSE
Nearly five years ago, Mitch Cope and his wife, Gina Reichert, bought a modest house on Detroit’s north side. The working class neighborhood has not changed much since the 1920s, except that it is rundown — some houses are unoccupied and many have been foreclosed on.
Mitch and Gina, however, see potential. Recently, the couple purchased a second house down the street — for $1,900. It’s a fixer-upper they call the “Power House.” Their goal is to make the house a model for “off the grid” power generation. They are planning to hook the house up to solar panels, wind turbines and batteries. Right now they only have three light bulbs going, but, eventually, they hope the house will be an electrical “source” for neighboring homes.
Still, just to take the house off the grid, will require an investment of some $60,000 (but, remember, they did pay $1,900 for the house).
While the Power House may not be the answer to turning around Detroit, it is representative of the potential within the city.