In Detroit, a Growing Sense of Pride in Motown

Despite its bankruptcy filing and crippling debt, Detroit is now a city where many residents and leaders are ready to celebrate 3-1-3 Day.

Posted: 03/12/2014 05:37 PM EDT

It has been an infamous year in Detroit. The city, which made national headlines by being the largest municipality ever to file for bankruptcy protection, was the subject of numerous news stories portraying everything from abandoned homes to staggering debt.

But to hear many people in Detroit tell it, there is another kind of story emerging from Motown. They insist that there is a growing level of civic pride in the city, with residents promoting Detroit as a place with a bright future and that may well be America’s next big hot spot.

From civil leaders and elected officials to local business owners, many in Detroit are saying that despite the year of negative headlines, local residents are eager to portray their town as a place where heartening things are happening.

“There is a very pro-Detroit feeling that is going on now,” said John Roach, a spokesman for Mayor Mike Duggan, in an interview with BET.com.

“As bad as things have been at times in the city, people respect anyone that refuses to quit, no matter the odds or what other people think,” Roach said. “People like to root for the underdog. We just haven't given people enough reason to root for Detroit in recent years, but that's starting to change.”

The evidence of that change is in the attention being devoted to this year’s so-called 3-1-3 Day, which is observed annually by people in Detroit – whose dominant area code is 313 – on March 13. Residents have been urged to use social media to offer their views on why they consider Detroit to be a great place to live.

Officials and civil leaders point to the increase of new businesses and residential development in the city’s midtown area, which has been the scene of a growing number of restaurants, art galleries and boutique stores.

“There is just a plethora of new businesses opening up — inside and outside the city — that are putting the word Detroit in their name,” Roach said. “That’s a pretty good indicator that people are seeing Detroit in a new way.”

Officials of stores that sell Detroit-themed items say that there has been a great interest in purchasing anything that promotes the city.

“I think everyone is realizing how much pride we have in our city,” said Dan Brennan, director of sales for Pure Detroit, a store that describes itself as selling “authentic apparel and unique gifts that represent the city of Detroit.” Speaking with BET.com, he added, “People are starting to realize how awesome a place this is.”

Of course, the city’s troubles are far from over. Detroit is still under the supervision of an emergency financial manager appointed by the governor. There are ongoing bankruptcy hearings on how to deal with the mountainous $18 billion in long-term debt. Unemployment and abandoned homes remain huge issues in the city.

Still, many in Detroit contend that they feel there is a turning of the tide, at least in how people feel about their city.

“Detroit is looking to go in a new direction and you can feel it,” said Maurice Morton, the chief executive of The Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences and a candidate for Congress, in an interview with BET.com. 

“We’re moving away from bankruptcy and we’re starting to see new investment and reinvestment in our infrastructure,” Morton said. “That’s creating a lot of optimism and enthusiasm for the people who live here.”

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Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan

 (Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

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