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JenB

Talk to me about living in Detroit

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Hello to all,

This is my first post here. My husband and I are moving to the Detroit area from DC, and trying to decide where to settle. I have this idea in my head that we'll buy a big old house in Boston Edison and live like captains of industry, happily raising a family there in spite of the high Detroit taxes, insurance and crime; bad schools; and lack of basic public services and amenities. So tell me, am I nuts?

I want to hear from people who actually live in Detroit. (The only people I know in Michigan are Birmingham/Royal Oak types, who would think I'm insane for even considering the notion.) How is the sense of community where you live? How much does Detroit's crime affect you? Has anyone had experiences with the magnet schools? What are the best and worst things for you about making your way in such a dysfunctional city?

Detroit seems to have so much potential... someone give me some good news!

-Jen

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Hello to all,

This is my first post here. My husband and I are moving to the Detroit area from DC, and trying to decide where to settle. I have this idea in my head that we'll buy a big old house in Boston Edison and live like captains of industry, happily raising a family there in spite of the high Detroit taxes, insurance and crime; bad schools; and lack of basic public services and amenities. So tell me, am I nuts?

I want to hear from people who actually live in Detroit. (The only people I know in Michigan are Birmingham/Royal Oak types, who would think I'm insane for even considering the notion.) How is the sense of community where you live? How much does Detroit's crime affect you? Has anyone had experiences with the magnet schools? What are the best and worst things for you about making your way in such a dysfunctional city?

Detroit seems to have so much potential... someone give me some good news!

-Jen

Hello and Welcome to the forum,

I'm a life long resident of the city of Detroit, and no you are not nuts for considering the move to the city. I can honestly say that as a resident born and raised in the city, I have never been the victim of any major crime. Well, my sister's car got stolen several years ago, but that's it. Detroit is like any other large city (especially DC) where if you don't go looking for trouble, you probably wont find it. The Boston Edison district is one of the best places that you could look to get a house in the city. Similar areas you might want to try are Rosedale Park, Indian Village, and Palmer Park

When it comes to your questions about DPS (Detroit public schools) I don't really know what to tell you. I've gone to DPS all the way through high school, and it does indeed need some work. However, I feel that a child is fully capable of getting a well rounded education in DPS. Just know that the schools can be a bit crowded sometimes.

Detroit in recent years has begun to realize its potential, and it's a VERY exciting time in the city. It seems everyday there is a new development to watch for. It's gotten to the point where I can't keep track anymore. In short, the city is the only place I would live if I had to choose in this region.

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I'm sure you'll be able to find many people to tell you that you are crazy, I'm not one of them. I am a new resident of the city and do not have to worry about issues concerning school or homeownership (at this moment at least). What I can tell you about Detroit is that it is unlike any urban experience anywhere. The city will try your nerves at times, it will disappoint you and astonish you. BUT, it will also infect you with a love you will not be able to describe.

I live in West Village, right next to Indian Village (which I highly recommend if you are looking for a stately old mansion). The residents here, for the most part, care about this city and are trying to do everything within their power to help it. There is a growing sense of community and there have been vast improvements in the quality of life in select neighborhoods in recent years. I would suggest that if you do decide to give Detroit a try, to become involved in neighborhood and city-wide organizations. This city is great because of the pro-active nature of its urban pioneers and the endless service opportunities.

Besides, where else can you get a small town atmosphere in the big city? Also, for a more informative response you may want to ask this on detroit.com as well.

Good luck with your decision.

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Welcome to the forum JenB!

I have never been a true resident of Detroit. When I tell my friends and family that I am moving to Detroit when I can move out, they tell me I am crazy. Most people around here would, but I have a love for Detroit. I only know a couple of my friends like me. The rest have there bad opinions about Detroit, like my friend I was downtown with who pulled out his knife along with his dad because there was two scary men standing and watching us walk by, as I told about the other day during the auto show. I just laughed and so did his brother and his brother's hilarious friend. They really didn't need to do that. Mojo is right, if you don't bug them, they won't bug you. Yesterday my friend told me a story about her friend donating to a homeless man and asking for change because he didn't want to give his full ten. Now that is just stupid. She(my friend) claimed her friend got mugged. I laughed in her face. IT IS JUST DETROIT PEOPLE! I think you are making a good decision. Corktown is also a very nice area, but that is even more urban than Boston-Edison and Indian Village. Consider moving downtown too.

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Welcome Jen, although I'm not a Detroit resident, I've spoken to people who have recently moved there form the suburbs and are enjoying it. Boston Edison is a nice neighborhood, one of my college friends lives there and has always found it a safe place to be.

Feel great to be a part of the Detroit renaissance. Things are really picking up there.

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Hello to all,

This is my first post here. My husband and I are moving to the Detroit area from DC, and trying to decide where to settle.

Welcome, to our forum and our city. I moved to Detroit from Ann Arbor in October.

I have this idea in my head that we'll buy a big old house in Boston Edison and live like captains of industry, happily raising a family there in spite of the high Detroit taxes, insurance and crime; bad schools; and lack of basic public services and amenities. So tell me, am I nuts?

You are absolutely not nuts.

You are exagerating a number of those statements. For instance: Are taxes high? Of course the mill rate is high, but when you can get a mansion the size of the ones that you are thinking about, even taxes are a decent deal.

Are the the schools bad? I'm sure some of them are, but there are also a number of schools that are among the best anywhere. I know people getting advanced degrees that went to both Cass Tech and Detroit Renaissance. (For instance.)

I want to hear from people who actually live in Detroit. (The only people I know in Michigan are Birmingham/Royal Oak types, who would think I'm insane for even considering the notion.) How is the sense of community where you live? How much does Detroit's crime affect you? Has anyone had experiences with the magnet schools? What are the best and worst things for you about making your way in such a dysfunctional city?

Detroit seems to have so much potential... someone give me some good news!

-Jen

The sense of community where I live is interesting. I live near the corner of 2nd and Alexandrine, in the Cass Corridor. I consider that this is the edge of a wave of early gentrification (though I don't like that term, and since there is little or no displacement, I don't think it is appropriate). There seems to be a tremendous sense of community within a number of people that engage in the less attractive and often less legal trades. Even though we don't have a lot of conflict, I feel like we are at least partially in the same boat, in a big-city sense. But then again, at the grocery store across the street, the employees remember me. I bump into the writer and editor that live upstairs from me at the wierdest time. I know the guy that owns the coffee shop a couple of blocks down the way.

If I were to go a few blocks further north, and be closer to Wayne State, things would change completely. I would be in the middle of a pretty close knit community of artist and students (amonst others).

I would highly recomend that you look towards more central locations. While BE might get you a big house, Woodbridge will get you an awesome house and an great community, and you will be closer to the center of things. Various areas of Midtown are even more central. The area around the College for Creative Studies seems like a great one, as does Brush Park. For slightly less dense areas, I don't think you can beat Corktown or West Village. Both of them have very active community groups, and the homes are small enough to clean and heat. If you really want city living, downtown has it, but finding other parents might be challenge.

But then again, if you are looking for a huge house with a lot of character, you can't beat parts of NW Detroit, BE, or Indian Village.

As for the best and worst...

The worst is dealing with people that think you are nuts or otherwise say insensitive things. The best is being a stones throw from anything I want to do. For instance, on Saturday, the weather was nice, so I went for a walk. Around 4, I saw a sign for an art gallery I hadn't heard of. I went in and talked to the old guy that ran it out of his apartment for a while. Then I went to another, pretty well known gallery, and one of the owners remembered me. On sunday I walked to the DIA. I decided to put off going to the Rodin show (Detroit is its only US stop), but looked at all kinds of other world renowned art. Later that night, I saw a movie. I only put about 4 miles on my car from time I got home on Friday till the time I went to work this morning.

I can think of at least 4 other things off of the top of my head that I wish I could have done this weekend, but didn't have the time for. If you live further from the city, you will say you'll do these things, but 90% of the time, you won't.

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I did something very similar 4 years ago when I moved to Detroit from out of state. Without knowing too much about the neighborhood I bought a big, run down house in Indian Village and have been fixing it up ever since.

The experience has been almost uniformly positive. You get a true sense of community, history, and being a part of something that's more important than just your one house. Being aware of your surroundings generally keeps you out of trouble and being close to downtown has been hugely rewarding as I've watched it take slow but steady steps toward being a truly exciting urban center.

My only caution would be to make sure you fully understand your budget before buying a house that looks like a steal. My last heating bill was almost $800, insurance isn't cheap since it would cost a fortune to rebuild these stunning homes, and no matter how well kept up the house looks it will eventually need new plumbing/roofing/wiring/etc. Nothing comes in increments of less than $1000 when making these repairs.

As a whole package, living in Detroit has living in a look-alike ranch house in Royal Oak or Birmingham beat hands down. I would do it all over again in a heart beat.

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Thanks, everyone, for the responses. I am so interested in the different perspectives of people who live in the city. The real situation on the ground always seems to be so much more complex than conventional wisdom would have you believe.

I read in an article recently that Detroit is the only Metro area where "where you live is a political statement" - and I think that gets to the heart of what appeals to me about living in the city. (That and the huge gorgeous houses, of course!) And DetroitLover, I particularly like your observation about being a part of something more important than just your one house.

It's interesting - I've been telling people that we're considering living in Detroit proper, and the difference in reactions among geographic lines is startling. My friends in DC and NY think it's great - they believe in cities; they believe that renaissance is possible and they love the idea of us being in the "first wave". People in Oakland county, on the other hand... I am having to steel myself against the pained "...Oh." that they inevitably react with.

We're moving this weekend (and staying in a temp apartment until we find a house) so I'll check back with where we end up, if anyone cares :)

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you should try living in detroit. i think you would enjoy it, my girlfriend and i just recently moved to detroit from chicago and we love it. DETROIT RULES!!!!!!

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Though a Mdtown apartment, I live in the city. I wouldn't have it any other way at this point in my life. I do not care for the suburbs at all. People say Detroit has some of the nicest suburbs around. Well, I disagree. If you're talking about the sole structure of a house, then sure, they're nice. But when it comes to the meat and potatos and the things that matter, they are the worst suburbs in the country...with the exception of the obvious.

We're never going to repress the inertia of excessive sprawl until Detroit starts experiencing reinvestment from outside residents...people voting with their feet and human capital and all of the market demands that they bring with them. There's that demand in the suburbs, but it's not where the people live. You have to drive excessive amounts of time and distance to access your market. It's the same way in the city, but at least in the city we have the potential and desire to bring back a working market to the people that live at or in close proximity to it, rather than separate ourselves as far away from it as possible.

A lot of hope can be spoken for in this regard. Not to mention a lot of the "for lease" properties that are filling up downtown (like Kales 100%, and the 12-hour sell out at Garden Lofts in Brush Park...even though they are condo) It just goes to show that there is a demand for a product in the region that cannot be found anywhere else in the region (sorry Ferndale, Pontiac, and Royal Oak...for as much as I love them).

The pioneering spirit is a unique one and will not last forever. Even though we'd like that to be, it is inevitable that if we are striving for a better city, that there is going to be forms of gentrification and change that will not please everyone. Planning for the future and working together is what makes Detroit a great place to live. The people coming back are choosing the vested interest they are committing to the city, not forcing it upon themselves. They're doing all of us future property owners a service by creating a neighborhood and a sense of place...a safe, vibrant, and economic one nonetheless.

So, who cares what kind of press we get. The city backers of the region are in their own litte "club" with the sole intent of making Detroit great. The best part of that club is that everyone is welcome to join with an open invitation. It's just a matter of time that people will come to our party.

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