Dark Ages in the shadow of the Renaissance

The Renaissance Center is one of the singularly most impressive buildings in Downtown Detroit. The magnificent set of towers rise at the edge of the waterfront that connects Lake Erie to Lake St. Clair. If you swam across the river for a few minutes you would be in Canada. The Renaissance Center has the offices of the Canadian consulate in one of the smaller towers. The main tower is the home of General Motors which declared bankruptcy yesterday. The GM CEO used to be one of the highest paid CEOs and now the company has no money to pay him.

I feel really bad for Detroit. The glory days of Detroit are long gone, but many people have tried valiantly to clean up the image of the poster-child for urban wasteland. There have been so many creative attempts to revive the city. For example, the lovely Riverwalk Project (a promenade along the Detroit river)was mostly sponsored by GM. Now work seems to have slowed down for sections that are yet under construction. What's worse than having no beautiful projects? Beautiful but incomplete projects. With the car companies going under there are few companies willing to pay for stuff, and the way the state seems to going, there might not be anybody in the mood for scenic river walks either. The only alternative seems to be Keynesian intervention, but will the tax-payers agree?

Lots of buildings at the U of M were also paid for by Chrysler and GM. The University has either been rather canny or reflective of the times, as most recent buildings and donations have come from real-estate moguls or financial whizzes. I am wondering with the collapse of auto, real-estate and finance who is going to even have a pocket to pay for future endowed chairs and buildings at the University. There are going to be more students. As the economy tanks, people more people go back to school because they lose jobs or feel they need to be more qualified to more competitive in the marketplace.

When I entered the impressive main foyer of the central tower to make my way to the Canadian consulate, I saw a huge GM 100th anniversary banner from last year that read: "It's been 100 years, and we have only got started". In less that five days after seeing that banner, I saw GM no longer listed on the Dow Jones index and filing for bankruptcy. Motown is going to be Notown if there ain't gonna be any Motors left.

1 comment:

Samrat said...

How true. I have taken innumerable walks on that beautiful riverwalk when I used to work in the Renaissance Center. Ren Cen is truly the landmark of Detroit downtown.

Heard it is going to be sold off by GM, but no takers apparently.