Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The first of thousands?

Detroit vacationer, property owner, and lovable dreamer John Law. (Photo by Scott Beale.)

Note to all Flint real estate agents: A rakish West Coast gent by the name of John Law seems like an ideal candidate to purchase some Flint property. After all, he just bought a "vacation home" in Motown:

"It’s a small but comfortable three-bedroom house in good condition that sits on a shorefront plot of land along the banks of an actual river," John writes at "The location is serene, and the price was right — the whole thing cost less than a new Cadillac Escalade. A lot less, actually. But that was only part of the appeal. Just as important to us was the idea that Detroit is poised to become a laboratory for the latest social trend: The Greening of America.

"Sure, Detroit may be the scariest place you can think of to live or even visit. Or is it? With the decline of the American auto industry, over seventy percent of the city’s populace fled to the burbs between 1966 and 1990. For those who remained, heroin and crack cocaine savaged the city’s neighborhoods. Yet when everyone else moved away, most of the thugs did too, leaving huge swaths of once-dense urban blocks very nearly depopulated — and quite a bit greener."


    Major demographic shifts take years, sometimes decades or longer. European Monarchies starved, bayonetted and repressed their subjects for centuries. They came here by the millions. It took a while. Corruption, terrible resource management and economic inequality in Latin America coupled with the promise of greater economic and political freedom here in the States has encouraged tens of millions to flood into our country in more recent times. The engines of America, places like Flint and Detroit and much of their fellow industrial cities in the East & Midwest froze up, sending millions packing to Texas, Arizona, California and to a lesser degree the Deep South. This process took thirty years and more. Phoenix, Vegas, El Paso, L.A. and most of the rest of the cities of the SouthWest will be ghost towns in twenty years if the hydrologists are right and the water tables sink to nothing and the drought ridden countryside ceases to provide water for reservoirs. If the hippies are right and global warming is real, where do you think those displaced by rising sea levels and unlivable climates will go? It's not rocket science to figure it out. They'll go where there is water and land. If you're thinking long term, now is the best time ever to buy in Detroit (or Flint.) Just ask the European and Asian investors who have started doing just that.

  2. Is that John Law or Husker Du bassist Greg Norton? With a moustache so exquisite I would never want to escape the long arm of the law- John Law.

    Take this guy, the Burton sewer squeezer, and Gordon and we got three months of a "Men of Flint Expats" calander.

  3. Well that makes January, February and March - are you volunteering for April, Smurfs??

  4. This post on John Law buying a house in Detroit along with the one on reurbanization a while back are really rather interesting ideas and I don't think too terribly implausible, at least to a certain extent. The "Flint Journal" published an article a few days back about a move that has taken place on a much smaller and more local scale. The move was to Fenton, and not to Flint, but the idea of bringing a thriving business out of those decades-long popular stripmall areas to a downtown area that can use the influx is a rather interesting one, and I for one am really interested in seeing if any other businesses follow suit. The article was about the Little Professor Book Center - here's the link:

    It made me think of Flint's own downtown area with what people are hoping will become a more thriving university center, which along with its new dormitories may eventually discover a need for a large-scale local bookstore catering to more than just the university crowd, not to mention a selection of coffee shops, restaurants, bars, etc. The clincher for me would be a cinema like Ann Arbor's State Theater. I think I'm probably getting a little over-enthusiastic at this point, but you get what I'm sayin'...

  5. I have always felt that the university was the only way to rejuvenate downtown Flint... you need people LIVING there to have it be a decent place. Yes, I wear rose colored glasses, but that's the only way to live. :)


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at