What the Strathmore says about Detroit’s growing pains

Many of the bankrupt city’s stately buildings will now be restored with care and attention to detail, including the once-great apartment hotel

What the strathmore says about detroit's growing pains
American Graffiti: The Strathmore

The old Strathmore Hotel stands on West Alexandrine in Detroit’s midtown. A red-brick building, eight storeys high, casting its windowless gaze over a rapidly changing part of this city. Below lie some of the familiar indicators of urban gentrification: a hipster coffee shop, a craft beer saloon, and not so very far away, a Whole Foods. But in other regards, and certainly in the case of the Strathmore, there is a hope that in Detroit the process of renewal might be different than it has been for other cities.

The Strathmore was built in 1924, and for 40 years ran as an apartment hotel before being converted into a rental building. For the past decade, however, it has stood empty, ceilings sagging, plaster peeling, ivy winding its way around the window frames. At ground level it has been embellished with depictions of men in suits wearing gas masks, painted by street artists the Hygienic Dress League. Just below its roofline runs a crown of block-faced graffiti: PAIDAWAY it reads, EDDY and CASH4DROID.

Derelict buildings are of course nothing new in Detroit – throughout the city, from homes to factories, apartment blocks to movie theaters, they stand ravaged by time and fire and nature; websites, documentaries, coffee-table books and countless newspaper articles have been dedicated to their eerie magnificence.

But a year ago a study by the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force, an organization put together by the Obama administration, found that 78,506 buildings across the city’s 139 square miles were dilapidated, and 114,000 parcels of land were vacant. It advised the city to tear down 40,000 abandoned houses, restore thousands more, and spend approximately $1bn on demolishing or restoring its 559 deserted factory buildings if it wants to hold on to any hope of renewal. []

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