A few months ago, responding to the steady stream of media reports about Detroit’s creative/hipster renaissance, I wrote a list of hyperbolic things you could say about “America’s Comeback City.” I just didn’t believe that a small cadre of twentysomethings in live/work lofts and urban farms actually constituted anything more than an anecdote. Anyways, I also included a callout to people who live in Detroit, because, never having been there, I was curious how it felt to live in inquisitive glare of GOOD Magazine and the New York Times Sunday Style Section, while also living in a shrinking, former economic juggernaut of a city. So, after posting the article, I had a nice chat with Achille Bianchi and Michael Burdick, two locals who had a lot to say about the whole thing.
So first off, who are you guys, and how did you each end up in Detroit?
Achille: I’m a journalist and photographer in the city. I’ve been down here for nine years, now. Graduated in 2003, came down here pretty much immediately after I graduated. My sister was down here studying design at the College for Creative Studies and I didn’t have much direction, so I applied for university here, and haven’t left since.
Michael: I grew up outside the city, in a suburb about twenty minutes away. Went to College for Creative Studies for illustration when I was 18 and yeah, also never really left.
So you’ve both been there for a while. I’m curious when you became aware of this media narrative that there was a surge of hip, young people moving to Detroit?
Achille: I can pinpoint that exactly. It was 2009, and actually [Michael’s] boss, Toby Barlow, broke a story about a $500 house in northern Detroit, with a couple friends of ours, Mitch and Gina, who run the Powerhouse Project. And then, kind of before then, 2003 to 2008, there was some cool stuff going on, but no one [nationally] gave a shit. But as soon as that story hit the New York Times, that’s when it all started.
Michael: And then, two years ago, Phil Cooley, the owner of Slows, got on Huffington Post person of the week, or something like that.
Achille: So, I’d say 2008-2010 was the “ruin porn” era, and the 2010 to present is the “hope porn” era.