Brian Doucet

Urban Geographer

Detroit: city of ruins

Detroit is known to many outsiders for its ruins. The city's population declined from around 1.85 million in 1950 to under 700,000 today. In addition to population loss, the city has bled jobs for decades. From around 330,000 manufacturing jobs located in the city of Detroit after World War II, there are less than 25,000 today. Hundreds of large and small factories have closed and many remain as abandoned ruins.

While there are many other stories and lessons from Detroit, it is also important to acknowledge the size and scale of the abandonment that has taken place over the past sixty years. To say that Detroit is only a city of ruins is to ignore the complex political-economic, social and racial reality that has produced them. But this page tries to convey the fact that around 1/3 of Detroit is vacant while also explaining how this happened. In recent years, many long-abandoned buildings downtown have been restored and renovated as a new wave of investment is gentrifying the city's core. This investment, however, has largely been confined to 5% of the city further increasing the divide between rich and poor.

Why Detroit Matters:

a photo tour of the motor city