In many ways, as pundits are noting, Detroit is starting to become a feel-good symbol for a weary nation. The auto companies reinvented themselves -- yes, General Motors and Chrysler partly did so with government help -- with innovative products like the electric Chevy Volt.
Some developments surprised us, including the reopening -- after so many false starts -- of the Book-Cadillac Hotel downtown, or the cleanup of the contaminated Uniroyal site on the Detroit River.
Do you remember downtown before Compuware, Ford Field and Comerica Park? It was vacant lots, the abandoned Hudson's department store and at least one brothel.
And Detroit continues to draw an international crowd of artists and urban explorers. In the last few months, French filmmakers, German urban planners, Japanese professors, Dutch students and others have turned up to study the city. Key Detroiters like Sue Mosey, head of the nonprofit civic group Midtown Detroit Inc. -- and known informally as the "mayor of Midtown" -- gets inundated with requests for interviews about her work. On a recent weekend at the flourishing D-Town Farm on the west side, two separate film crews, one French and one American, were filming documentaries about urban agriculture and efforts to reinvent Detroit.
The city's core -- downtown and Midtown (which through another bit of marketing no longer goes by the notorious moniker "Cass Corridor") -- has made strides from just a decade or so ago. Probably 10,000 more people work downtown today. Cheap, available real estate and a willing work force, not to mention an excess of engineering talent, drew the high-tech firm GalaxE Solutions, which has about 130 workers downtown and is hiring another 200 or so. GalaxE embodies one of the newest slogans bandied about business enclaves these days: "Outsource to Detroit."