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Nights in Neon

A frigid late November night in Detroit Michigan. We rode the People Mover around and around, taking in the city sights as the sun set.
Hungry for food, we stepped off the train car at the Greektown exit and headed toward the faint glow of pink and blue.
Bright neon lights in the cold winter night, led us down the winding concrete stairs to the loud festive streets of Greektown.
The lights illuminated the walkway, some flickered and gave off a low hum of electricity. It felt a little like being in an alternate universe.

Another corner of Detroit, overflowing with character.

We sat in a Greek restaurant, devouring delicious food and reminiscing on the fun we had that day, wandering our homeland.

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A Walk Down Heidelberg Street

Heidelburg street, in East Detroit.
I had seen many pictures of this house and when I found out it was in Detroit, my homeland, I had to go.
I didn’t realize how big the Heidelberg project really was. It consumed the entire street.
The abandoned houses in the surrounding neighborhood stood intimidating against the cold grey winter sky.  I’d seen rows of abandoned houses plenty of times before, but this was much larger than that.  Many of the seemingly abandoned houses were not quite abandoned though. There were signs of life inside, even if the roof had fallen in.
It was one of many neighborhoods that got left behind. Forgotten as the rich parts of the city grew.
Tyree Guton started this project in 1986 when he returned from the army and found the neighborhood he grew up in, in shambles.
The goal of The Heidelberg Project is to bring communities together, and improve lives through art.
It was easy to see that this project brought a whole mix of different people to this neighborhood, who might have otherwise stayed far away.

 

 

It was a cold day, but as we walked around the sun began to come out and warm the street where people were working to rake up leaves, and as the artist continued to work on his never ending art project.

 

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Time to Explore the Power Plant


Bailey Power Plant has stood abandoned for years. As long as I can remember, it has been this mysterious run-down industrial building, surrounded by a huge wire fence, but begging to be explored.

 I never had the courage to sneak in though.

It has been undergoing renovations for the past few years now, just as all the old tobacco factories have.

But on this day, as the renovations are getting closer to completion, the fence was finally down. The power plant was open for wandering.


The inside of the building still requires much work, but it was exciting to be able to wander around the outside, under all the tunnels and bridges that remained illusive for so many years.







The view inside the broken windows




A space that was once a muddy swamp, is becoming a nice little patio with string lighting. I imagine it will be a popular spot when summer comes.






















This area that was once a ghost town, is now turning into one of the most popular parts of the city and I can’t wait to see it continue. 

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Snow Maze



Whenever it snows I just want to be out in it, exploring. Everything has a diffeernt look to it when its all covered in white. On the day it snowed last, I went exploring downtown. I wandered all over. 

Eventually I came to this little park I always forget exists. 

A little waterfall, with suspended concrete walkways all around.



Nobody was around as I wandered up the steps and navigated the little maze. With views of the snowy city all around.








It’s always interesting what you can discover, or rediscover, when you wander around. 
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What We Saw From a Detroit Train Car


Venturing to downtown Detroit for the first time. None of us were sure what to expect, or what exactly we were going to do.
Around and around we drove, everywhere was full, rush hour was just starting. Finally, a parking space appeared, on some side street many blocks from the center of downtown. 

Surrounded by the shadows of tall buildings all around us, I checked the map to see what was nearby. There was a stop for something called the People Mover, a sort of above ground subway; It sounded intriguing so we headed towards it. 

We found the entrance in the bottom of some old building, nobody was around and it looked a bit run down. We debated for a moment if we should just keep walking, but decided to go for it. 

Our change was traded for tokens. 75 cents to ride the train as long as you wanted.

We passed through the gate of the grimy little station and climbed the stairs to wait for the train. We stood in the cold until the little train car came, and we were soon to be amazed by the sights of downtown Detroit.


I didn’t realize how big Detroit was, I was quite impressed by the sea of skyscrapers in the city I was born in. I found myself loving Detroit more and more.


















We rode the People Mover to the Renaissance center and wandered around a bit on the water front. It was freezing cold so we decided the best way to see the most of the city without freezing to death was to hop back on the little train and ride it around and around.

The Detroit People Mover Travels in a loop around downtown with 13 stations. It operates above ground which is a great way to get a tour of the city as you explore different areas of downtown.

The People Mover was built in the 80s with very high expectations, but due to Detroit’s Decline, it never got as much use as was originally hoped.  Fortunately things seem to be looking up for Detroit in recent years so I am looking forward to seeing how this city grows!
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Detroit At Last


I was born in Detroit Michigan.  Even though we moved away when I was young, it has always felt like my home. 


It has always felt strange to be from a city that I rarely get to visit. I’ve lived in my current town for so long, but it just doesn’t have the same feeling. It doesn’t feel like my “real home”.

Maybe it’s because every single one of my ancestors is from this city. I’m even a direct descendant of some of the families that founded Detroit. I’ve just always felt like I belonged in Detroit.

I was overjoyed to finally return this Thanksgiving, to visit family members, and to explore the place I came from. 


The few times I have been back never included a venture downtown, but I had always wanted to go.  I love cities, but I didn’t even know what the city I was born in really looked like and it drove me crazy. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as we made our way to the center of the city I was born in, I loved it instantly. 


It wasn’t the run down, decrepit, broken, abandoned city that I had always heard it was. 

The ornate skyscrapers towered over busy streets. The sun was setting and people were just getting off of work and rushing home. The city seemed full of life and overflowing with energy. 


There were all kind of restaurants, and shops that filled the bottom floors of the buildings, there was a tram car that ran down a busy street, an above ground subway train, there was even city stream rising up out of the streets! 


At some moments, I felt like I was back in New York City!














Downtown Detroit exceeded anything I had expected. It is a city with so much character, so much history with everything it has been through over the years and so much to see.

There are definitely still poverty stricken parts of this city, but that doesn’t mean it is a place to be avoided. It’s a place that needs attention, and that will hopefully one day have the same opportunities as it once did. 

I’m afraid I’m going to be thinking about this city, ever more than I was before..

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Quarry Park


A few years ago I found out there was a secret abandoned rock quarry in my city. I figured out where it was and wanted really badly to go and explore it. But the mysterious rock quarry was completely fenced in with intimidating signs and cameras. I may have still tried to sneak past if I hadn’t also heard that the quarry was soon going to be turned into a park. So I decided to wait until the quarry was open to the public instead of sneaking in. 

Three years later the wait is over the the quarry is finally open. It is a simple park, with large fields, a few places to sit, and one big overlook that extends to the very edge of the rock quarry, with a view of downtown and the mountains that surround the city.









The water is so still, and looks like a layer of glass. Apparently many construction vehicles are submerged underneath the quarry’s glassy surface. There are also rumors of cars and bodies that have reached their final resting place at the bottom of the quarry!  I would love to know for sure what is down there.

The quarry was in operation from the 1920s to the 1970s, when it filled up with water and remained that way, causing the stone mining to stop for good. 











I’m glad they decided to turn this interesting feature into a park instead of keeping it closed off. 

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Bailey Power Plant


Bailey Power Plant, with its smoke stacks that make Winston-Salem stand out from all the other cities, will come alive once again after being abandoned for more than twenty years. 


This building was once the center for the tobacco manufacturing giant, RJ Reynolds Tobacco, and provided power for all the factories in the area. But when tobacco manufacturing moved away from this city, Bailey Power Plant fell out of use and was left to sit vacant and crumble over the years. The center of Winston-Salem soon became a ghost town of abandoned forgotten factories. Nobody ever came downtown anymore. 


But luckily, the potential of these old buildings was realized, and they began getting turned into lofts, office space and research labs as part of the newly named Innovation Quarter. As the years went by, and life began to creep back into downtown, everyone wondered when and if the old power plant, the city’s most intriguing building, would also be brought back to life. Sure enough, early this year, work began on the old power plant. 

So on a warm summer afternoon, I wandered around the old building to document the changes.

I just wish I could slip past the fence and look inside!












It will soon be home to many small businesses, restaurants, a patio with string lights, and who knows what else!

I am glad to see these old buildings restored and saved. 

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Long Branch Trail


The trail I watched being built all last summer from my office window is nearly complete. 

My blog post Forgotten Corners shows what it looked like when construction first began. What used to be an overgrown meadow over a once busy industrial area, is now a nicely landscaped greenway.




The old Railroad track that ran though this area providing coal to the factories has been preserved. 





On the other side of the path lies the current train track where freight trains travel back and fourth all day.



There was hardly another soul in sight on this new path, since it is not quite finished, and maybe not too many have heard about it yet. But I’m sure it won’t be long until it is packed with people. But I prefer how it is now, in it’s empty state. 






I’m happy to see this plot of land being put to good use, and that some of the old elements of what it once was got to stick around.


And they kept the cobblestone!
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Central Park

While in New York City for a few days last December, a visit to Central Park was something to check off our to do list. I hadn’t given the park much thought before visiting, but when we got there, it was a bit of a strange experience to stand someplace that has been so popular in countless TV shows and movies. It was hard to believe I was actually there. 


One moment you are making your way through streets lined with skyscrapers so tall they block out the sun, while dodging mobs of people and crazy taxis. The next moment, you find yourself surrounded by trees and nature and feel like you have been instantly transported into another universe. 


But before you can forget where you are, a quick glance up towards the sky, and the sunlight you forgot existed, reveals all the huge buildings towering up over the tree tops. It is a surreal sight. 




My pictures may give a false illusion that the park was quite secluded, when really it was quite the opposite!  People were everywhere of course! 

I found myself being very impressed with central park. The woodland landscape against the biggest buildings I have ever seen was a very picturesque sight. 

We wandered around the park for a while, ate a pretzel from a street cart, took in the sights, and then got stopped by a man dressed as a monk who put bracelets on our wrists before we knew what was happening then tried to make us pay $20 each for them. We gave him one $5 and ran away. All in all, a pretty successful walk in Central Park.