Life After the Bankruptcy: How Detroit Tries To Reboot – Auto

The bankrupt city of Detroit has dressed up. The downtown streets are clean and the green spaces are well-kept. No wonder guests are coming: the starts this Monday North American International Auto Show – one of the most important auto shows worldwide. That means income. The hotels are fully booked and the pubs are full. The city is full of life for two weeks.

When corporate executives, auto enthusiasts and journalists have withdrawn, however, the dreariness returns to Detroit. Much of the city has been orphaned since the auto industry shrank. However, the areas have to be maintained at a high price. In addition to corruption and mismanagement, this contributed to the bankruptcy in the summer.

Art for sale from the museum

Kevyn Orr is supposed to manage the restart. The bankruptcy expert was appointed administrator of the city by the governor. Its job is to reduce the $ 18 billion mountain of debt. He has already made some progress: He has persuaded lenders to waive claims and negotiated cheaper interest rates.

General Motors headquarters is reflected in a puddle. Even the American automakers have a large share …Photo: dpa

But the insolvency administrator encounters resistance: banks and other donors want to secure their benefices, former employees of the city defend themselves against the planned cut in their pensions and art lovers are foaming because Orr is about to sell pictures and sculptures of the Detroit Institute of Arts ponders. It is about 2,800 of the total of 66,000 works, including paintings by Henri Matisse, Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh. It is estimated that the sale could raise as much as $ 867 million.

Detroit’s population is shrinking

The city government, headed by Mayor Mike Duggan, could use the money to demolish dilapidated houses, add fire services or repair broken street lights. “I’d love to see a town where the police show up when you call them,” says Duggan. He has only been in office since the beginning of the year – as the first white mayor in a predominantly black city for 40 years. “The people of Detroit chose me to improve the quality of life in the city.” The mayor and the insolvency administrator have so far fought over responsibilities. But to get Detroit back on its feet, they made a truce: Orr takes care of the finances, Duggan makes sure that the city functions on a day-to-day basis.

A saxophone player plays the blues in downtown Detroit: Poverty leaves entire neighborhoods orphaned.Photo: dpa

It will not be an easy undertaking. The population has shrunk from 1.8 million in the 1950s to 700,000, which is why so many buildings are empty. Unemployment is more than twice the national average and the crime rate is among the highest in the United States. There are as many murders in Detroit as in New York City, which is twelve times the size.

Signs of life in the city center

“Motor City” used to be quite wealthy. The splendid buildings in the city center and the pompous old train station, Michigan Central Station, bear witness to the heyday, when motorization allowed money and people to flow into the city. The train station is now a ruin that attracts tourists on photo safaris. But there are signs of life in the city center: companies and artists appreciate the low rents, speculators bet on the upturn. One of the biggest employers is real estate financier Quicken Loans, who moved to the city in 2010. Last year, the expensive organic chain Whole Foods opened its first supermarket.

In parallel, the auto companies have General Motors, Ford and Chrysler recovered from their existence-threatening crisis. Sales are rising steadily – this has created thousands of new jobs in factories in and around Detroit as well. Mayor Duggan is already dreaming of a renaissance for the city once the bankruptcy is over. That should work out later this year. “More than anything, I hope Detroit’s population will grow again in five years.” (dpa)

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