AAN 2012: Detroit Rock City, Part 2

Part 2 in a series of guest posts from the staff of Metro Times leading up to AAN’s 2012 Annual Convention in Detroit. (See Part 1 here)

Detroit Rock City, Part 2

By Brian Smith

A few words about downtown Detroit, where you conventioneers will be based. We’re not going to pull your leg that it’s Manhattan. We’ll admit up front that you’ll stand in front of the redeveloped Westin Hotel, convention HQ, and wonder why there are still-abandoned skyscrapers across the way waiting for new investment or a wrecking ball. But investment is coming now, bringing a new wave of businesses and residents. That contrast is what makes Detroit exciting today.

Downtown boasts a scenic Riverwalk, which connects a pavilion, a wetlands park, a harbor, riverboats, the towering Renaissance Center, a spacious plaza and more (with a great view of Canada throughout your walk). You’ll find three casinos (one in walking distance), clubs, music venues, bars, the pretty Café d’Mongo’s Speakeasy and the aptly named Greektown, ample places to kick it up for night tripping, drinking and eating. The majestic and immaculately restored Fox Theatre sits across from Comerica Park, the new home for the Detroit Tigers. Just east of downtown, you’ll find the largest concentration of Mies van der Rohe housing (townhouses and four high-rises), and a few miles farther is Belle Isle, a beautiful 1,000-acre island commons in the Detroit River.

North of downtown you enter the hip Midtown neighborhood and then the New Center area, with the Motown Records Museum, the classic Fisher Building and theater and other nearly mind-boggling examples of early-to-mid-20th century architecture. The Detroit Institute of the Arts, meanwhile, houses some of the finest Asian, Islamic, European and American art anywhere. It’s noteworthy as home to Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry mural, his tribute to industrial America as epitomized by the Motor City.

But there’s more here, neighborhoods and cultural facets to consider … a city to discover, poised between past and future. And we’ll tell you more about it next week.

Brian Smith is the managing editor of Metro Times.

Previously: Detroit Rock City, Part 1