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Detroit History 1950 - 2020: Growth, Bankruptcy and Recovery

Updated on January 19, 2016

The Heidelberg Project For the Arts

Since the late 1980s, this art program has been taking over abandoned Neighborhoods in Detroit and creating art installations.
Since the late 1980s, this art program has been taking over abandoned Neighborhoods in Detroit and creating art installations. | Source

Hope In the 2010s

Depite the fact that Detroit, Michigan filed for Chapter 9 Bankruptcy protection during July 2013, the city was still home to economically successful individuals. This includes workers hired during new jobs creation in the automative industry in 2012 - 2013, as well as others.

Another successful group is one of writers, actors, singers, musicians and other artists hired to work with director/producer Sean H. Robertson in various web movie and television projects.The arts are particularly supported by public art installations through the Heidelberg Project (see photo above). Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and similar crowd-funding sources are making these types of jobs possible to qualified Detroiters who choose to stay in the city and work with Sean. Aretha Franklin herself chose to stay and she is their example.

Sean worked in tlevision, films, and commercials, including TV's Detroit 187, which unfortunately was cancelled after one season 2010 - 2011 (see‎) . At that time, the story of a police division in Detroit played despite the fact that the city no longer even had a crime lab, because of the expense. The State of Michigan revoked the film credits program previously offered, and Sean when the routs of crowd-funding, sucessfully. His web seires in Great Lake State and is set to go to television in 2013.

Still, Detroit lost additional residents in the 2010s and many US taxpayers do not want to see the city bailed out with federal funds. In fact, some opinions incllude speculation that the city fathers filed for bankruptcy in order to avoid paying pensions to increasing numbers of retirees every month, according to radio broadcasts on my local 610WTVN-AM and WCBE-FM radio programs..

Heidelberg Project, Detroit MI (1986 - Present), Supporting Artists

A marker3600 Heidelberg St Detroit, MI 48207 -
3600 Heidelberg Street, Detroit, MI 48207, USA
get directions

The arts project continues to draw visitors to Detroit's East Side.

Detroit Comeback In the 1990s

A major automaker city in the world in the 1950s - 1960s, the place was nicknamed Motor Town and Motown. Decline came soon afterward. Detroit was devastated by racially and politically charged riots in the latter 1960s. Nearly half of the population moved away and more followed later. The 1970s were rumored to be full of corrupt government.

Some of the media blame economic decline on unions for pricing American cars out of the market, but some news reporters blame the Democratic Party for all the city's problems from 1950 to 2013 - probably an unfair accusation.

Detroit 1-8-7

Detroit 1-8-7: Season 1
Detroit 1-8-7: Season 1

Sean H. Robertson of Great Lake State is included in the show.


Empowerment Zone (EZ)

Detroit Empowerment Zone
Detroit Empowerment Zone | Source

Empowerment Zones (EZs)

The 1990s under President Bill Clinton was the decade of Empowerment Zones (EZs) in urban areas within cities. Federal funds were supplied to subsidize employment & Training programs and to incentivize business to move into and expand within these EZs.

In Ohio's capitol, Columbus, we placed thousands of laid off workers, displaced homemakers, and Welfare to Work (W2W) participants into training programs, community colleges, and apprenticeships in order to provide people with jobs and the EZ with workers. I'd say the program worked about halfway here and in Detroit; and was more successful in Chicago. Transportation was a problem in Ohio, where only bus passes were given on an insufficient bus network; but, Chicago programs helped people to obtain working automobiles.

The 1990s were also the time of the successful No Excuses program in Detroit city schools. It worked much more effectively than the following era's testing-driven No Child Left Behind. In No Excuses, teachers and principles that no longer cared about education or students were removed from the school system, despite tenure.

There were sadly some teachers and administrators that were only biding their time until retirement by doing as little as possible and achieving little, while teachers who did perform ell were running themselves into the ground with work.Then, No Child Left Behind replaced No excuses and education began to decline, probably in many US States besides Michigan. Poor education creates some workers that are left without basic skills and unemployable.

>Comparisons of Detroit and Columbus

Click thumbnail to view full-size

>Comparing the 1990s to the 2010s:

According to city and Wayne County statistics and to USA Today, Dettroit supported about 1.9 million residents in 1950 and held 5th spot in largest populations among cities in the USA. In 2012, Detroit was reduced to approimately 701,000 residents, scoring 18th place among cities in America. Population declined in Motor City throughout the 1990s and early 2010s, especially during the Great Recession of 2008 - 2010.

Note: Ford Motor Company did not accept a federal bailout.

In 1950, Detroit had a a population of twice that of my local Franklin County, Ohio in 2012. In 2010, Detroit was reduced to just below the population size of Columbus, Ohio.

Detroit Mayor Archer helped to attract new investment monies into Detroit during his two terms ending in 2002. He also encouraged modernization - the city offices still had rotary telephones in 1994. USA Today reports that under Mayor Archer, the city received upgrades from bond-ratings agencies, more than one per year, a phenomenon which was almost unheard of. What happened after 2002?

Detroit, Michigan

A markerDetroit, Michigan -
Detroit, MI, USA
get directions

Opinions: Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick 2002 - 2008

Detroit, 2000 - 2020

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick amassed a burden of legal problems and resigned in 2008. In 2013, he collected an additional two dozen felony convictions.

The media consensus seems to be that during the decade following Archer, the city continued to borrow fund, even though no costs were apparently cut. Some businesses and a lot of people moved out.

By 2013, city fathers felt bankruptcy was unavoidable. At the same time, at least one fderal judge found the attempt at bankruptcy to violate the Michigan State Constitution. All the while, the city owed money to at least 100,000 creditors.

Quote from USA Today:

"Pension debt alone now makes up half of Detroit's $18 billion shortfall. Trying to make good on old obligations while providing a high level of services to a shrinking population ultimately proved unmanageable." reference link here, retrieved July 19, 2013.

New Jobs

Ford Motors has brought some new jobs to the Detroit area, but other businesses moved away. Sean Robertson is successful, even without film incentives, EZs, and other business incentives, but how long can that last?

Some media suggest that Detroit's government has been a corrupt one ever since the 1970s, not creating a good situation in which to make new jobs. The pension fund problem listed above may be a reflection of funding mismanagement.

Zombie Jobs

A company called Z World Detroit proposes to build a theme park of sorts in some of Detroit's abandoned neighborhoods. The fan craze around zombies and the Zombie Apacolypse is growing in the 2010s.

A psychology course at The Ohio State University taught in the Spring 2013 semester that Americans in their teens and 20s believe that zombies are real and the Apocalypse is coming soon. I think it is a fan craze that provides eople a lot of fun.

Whatever it is, Z World Detroit thinks it can be profitable. However, their Indiegogo crowd-funding project failed to raise more than $9,400.The company still believes in its "spectacular zombie themed experience park" concept, basing its hope on the Heidelberg Project (, in which an artist turned an abandoned east-side street into a major art installation.

Detroit Indiegogo Projects Approaching Success

Other company startups and projects on Indiegogo are nearly funded for Detroit and will create some new jobs. These projects include:

  • Rescued Hoarder House Dogs - Totally funded at over $25K.
  • Batch Brewing Company - Totally funded.
  • Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue history project - Totally funded, over $61K.
  • Art From the Ashes - Totally funded. Art project in an abandoned neighborhood.
  • Downtown Brown's 6th Studio Album - Totally funded.
  • Mouk's Adventures - Puppet art, studio, museum and more.
  • Audra Kubat - Record album.
  • Charlotte Mason Community School
  • Detroit Youth Poetry Slam project and trip.
  • You'll See Your Baby In Heaven (totally funded) - A film to help work through the tragedy of stillbirth.
  • Leo's Wisdom Jewelry line - Totally funded.
  • PD9 Township Jazz Project - Totally funded.
  • Detroit Future Youth - Totally funded.
  • Dew Community Innovation - Totally funded.
  • Fish Starter fish farm - Totally funded.
  • Improvements to Belle Island - Totally funded. Disc Golf.
  • The Next Urban Chef - Totally funded.
  • Several other film and art projects.

The Future to 2020

In order to restore more of Detroit's former economic strength, large businesses, small business startups, and families need to move into Detroit, likely with the encouragement of tax and mortgage incentives. In July 2013, over 85,000 job vacancies were listed for the city, without the needed trained individuals to fill them. Many of these jobs involve professions in Heathcare, Engineering, and Technologies (see links at end of this Hub).

Governor Rick Snyder: July 18, 2013

Former Mayor Dennis Archer on Mayor David Bing's Decision Not To Run Again, 2013

© 2013 Patty Inglish


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 4 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I was really hoping that the city could gain economically and am disappointed, but my friend Sean intends to stick there. He's gathered a pretty large group of actors, writer's, artist's, singers, and others that he's helping to maintain consistent work for the msot part, so a few parts of the city are doing better than others. Thanks for your comment, Elias!

    • Elias Zanetti profile image

      Elias Zanetti 4 years ago from Athens, Greece

      A well written and interesting hub, Patty. The bankruptcy news didn't come as a surprise since i was aware of the problems that Detroit faces in the last decades. That was a thorough article that i enjoyed reading.