News / USA

Blight Tourism in Detroit Grows in Popularity

Blight Tourism in Detroit Grows in Popularityi
X
January 31, 2014 2:31 AM
The city of Detroit is known more for its iconic blight than the vehicles that once rolled off the floors of the now-abandoned factories that gave it the nickname “Motor City.” But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, Detroit’s decline has given rise to a new phenomenon that is growing in demand - blight tourism.
Kane Farabaugh
The city of Detroit is known more for its iconic blight than the vehicles that once rolled off the floors of the now-abandoned factories that gave it the nickname “Motor City.”  But, Detroit’s decline has given rise to a new phenomenon that is growing in demand - blight tourism.

The throngs of rock music fans are now a distant memory at Detroit’s Eastown Theater.

On this cold morning, the sidewalk in front serves as a bed for the homeless.

Step inside, and the once iconic stage that hosted rock singers Bob Seger, Ted Nugent and Alice Cooper is filled with holes.   

It now more closely resembles the aftermath of a bombing, but it's not war torn. It's the byproduct of neglect, an example of economic decline.

Photographer Jesse Welter sees beyond the decay.  He sees art.

“I can see the beauty in it, and the architecture," said Welter.

The former beauty of St. Agnes Catholic Church is pierced by crumbling columns, broken windows, and graffiti.  There hasn’t been a service here since 2006.

Inside the school next to the church are forgotten shoes, open books on abandoned desks, and hallways once filled with students now full of debris.

This is Jesse Welter’s canvas.  His camera is his paintbrush, and his artwork tells a story.

“I think they kind of tell you the history.  The past.  What it is, what it’s become," he said.

What it’s become for Welter is not just a hobby, but a part-time job as a guide through Detroit’s misery.

“I was kind of doing this on my own, and I thought why not take people with me," he said.

In 2011, Welter began inviting other photographers on his adventures through Detroit’s evaporating architectural history.   Now, he charges between $40 and $100 per person for tours of Detroit's blight.  He says much of the money goes for expenses transporting his customers.

“My van, I can take up to ten people, and it's usually full.  I’ve been to about 180 different buildings, and the tours. I’ve probably done over 300 tours," said Welter.

The popularity of Welter’s tours has increased as the number of abandoned structures has grown. Detroit’s emergency manager Kevyn Orr estimates there are 78,000 blighted structures, which are targets of vandalism and fire.  

“Right now our public safety is stressed," said Glenda Price.

Glenda Price is co-chair of the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force. It's developing a roadmap to eliminate Detroit’s blight over the next three years.

“We’re looking at all structures in the city, and all vacant land," she said.

One of the largest is the former Packard Automobile plant, which covers about 16 hectares. It's one of the most popular, and surreal, destinations on Welter’s tour.

“Once you start to see a lot of this, it doesn’t have as much of an impact anymore," said Welter.

Welter's trek through this wasteland is bittersweet, as it might be one of the last tours he offers here.  The plant has a new owner who is interested in developing the facility. Instead of an abandoned ruin, it could become, among other things, someone’s home.

You May Like

Multimedia US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid