Detroit was an important city even before the great automobile manufacturers established their factories there in 1903. It is one of four bridges into Canada with Toronto closer than Chicago. As the home of Ford, Dodge and Chrysler it was at one time the fourth largest city in the United States. The world famous record label Motown (derived from Motor town, Detroit's nick name) was founded in 1960 and played a significant part in the racial integration of popular music genres: rhythm & blues, soul, hip hop, and pop.
The motor industry attracted vast numbers of people including many African-Americans from the south that had an impact on the city's social unrest for some 50 years. Another problem was Prohibition: all that separated Canada from the US was the River Clare (see map page 13). This was the easy route for contraband liquor to flow south, an opportunity the Mafia could not resist. The fuel crises of 1973 and 1979 encouraged the import of smaller cars from Japan creating large-scale layoffs in the US motor industry. The unions mobilised the work force and riots followed. The population declined rapidly from the 1950 peak to less than half today. The fortunes of the city were further blighted in the 1970's by drug crime, decay, graffiti and homelessness.
The 1980's saw the start of the city's revival and by the 1990's Downtown, Midtown and New Center soared with new skyscrapers; famous old hotels were refurbished, impressive sports arenas grew, green parks flourished. The city fathers promised to redevelop blighted areas. The city was growing in confidence as new arrivals KPMG, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young took substantial office space. Several Fortune 500 corporations headquartered there among them Hewlett-Packard. Technology, energy and health insurance companies found a new home. The Detroit Medical Centre, the Henry Ford Hospital and the Wayne State University, the country's largest single campus medical school, established Detroit as a world centre for medical research. Over $21 billion in grants has been granted to Detroit's motor manufacturers and another $21 billion promised.
In 1990, work began on creating a green parkland along the River Clare. In 2001, the International waterfront was completed to celebrate the city's tercentenary.
By 2011, following the example set by Windsor, Ontario, on the other side of the river, parks and fountains lined the west bank attracting visitors from the US, Canada and the world. As all this was happening, the areas blighted by years of urban decay were being bulldozed and new commercial and residential areas rose up. Detroit was finding its feet again.
Detroit airport is six years into a 25-year plan to build the world's biggest airport. There are our other smaller airports already serving Detroit.
On a more human level, the average age level is reducing as young entrepreneurs and ambitious technologists move in from as far away as Seattle attracted by the cheap cost of living, affordable property prices and a lively entertainment and sports environment.
The city is already well-served by public transport systems and there is a cross border service between the downtown areas of Windsor and Detroit which is provided by Transit Windsor via the Tunnel Bus. There is an elevated railway around the city centre but the big change will come in 2013 with opening of Woodward Avenue Light Railway linking the outer suburbs of the city.
Detroit is still in a nascent stage of its resurgence. 10,000 houses will be demolished by 2013. In their place new urban villages and parks will rise financed by Federal, State and private enterprise.