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Defying Detroit's 'Eight Hour' Myth

People really do live in Detroit. Really. There are a few brave souls who CHOOSE to live in Detroit.

And they work for Quicken Loans. Gasp!

When Quicken moved downtown, I know there were many in the media and elsewhere who doubted that the switch from Livonia to Detroit wouldn't make an impact. But even two more souls in Detroit have an impact.

Meet Abby Wrysch and Michael Flis. Abby is 30 and a President's Club banker. Michael is 25 and director of Mortgage Banking. And their moves to Motown have had a ripple effect: All of a sudden, everyone they know is coming to see them downtown. And they lived to tell the tale.

Gasp! Part Deux.

I recently met Abby and Michael as part of my quest to find out who if anyone from Quicken actually came from the suburbs to the city. Lo and behold, they were not hard to track down.

They truly can dispel what some call the “Eight Hour Myth.” You know, that people might spend just eight hours in the city: going out to dinner, seeing a game, hanging at the club. And then they run out of there and get back to safety, security, something else other than wicked ol' Detroit.

“I haven't been outside of Detroit in about three and a half weeks,” Michael said when I talked to him. “I don't use my car that much anymore. I typically get into work at 7 a.m., work out in the building. After work, maybe around 7 p.m., I grab dinner around the office. For me, it's definitely not an 8-hour visit.”

And he loves his condo overlooking the water; he's lived in Detroit for more than a year now. “It was what I was hoping for. I live next to Joe Louis Arena in the Riverfront Condos. There's a People Mover stop there and near (Compuware, where Quicken is based). I don't really have to go outside; I've always kind of dreamed of that. It's fallen into place now.”

Abby just moved to Detroit a couple weeks before quicken arrived. She lives across the street and walks the whole two minutes to her office. She too hasn't used her car in at least two weeks. Okay, she drove back to her old stomping grounds in Royal Oak/Berkley area for some groceries. Hey – old habits die hard. But she's just one person, so she can now get everything she needs from around her condo.

Michael said he shops around his condo, too. Everything he needs he can get around the small grocery stores in the area (see, who needs a national retailer?) or the CVS across the street.

What's the best thing about living in Detroit? “There's a million things to do,” Michael said. “Quite honestly, I think the only person who doesn't understand it is my grandmother, and I think she's just disappointed she doesn't get to see me as often as she used to.”

But, we disgress. “Entertainment-wise, it's so nice to take the People Mover places. You don't have to worry about piling a bunch of people in the car. And if you go out for a drink with friends, you don't have to worry about driving home. It's far too inconvenient to leave the city now.”

For Abby, “There's so many places you wouldn't know unless you're here.” And tons of them are promoting themselves heavily to the Quicken employees, so there's no shortage of things to do or suggestions or places to go.

Michael agrees. “You know people's perception of Detroit – honestly, it's not really that at all. Everywhere you go, there's these hidden gems. Most people don't have the opportunity to see them. … Every one has their own little story. Every place is kind of like a great place to go and bring someone to.”

Perceptions are powerful – and not necessarily true, Abby added. “There's the whole ‘Detroit is such a dangerous place.' I'm sure there are places that are not so great, but I haven't run into any scary situation or anything where I felt I was in jeopardy.”

Many people – including their own parents – have asked them why Detroit? Why this place? Why now?

“My mother worked in Detroit (at the RenCen for Ford Motor Co.) She always had the best of things to say. She never had a bad experience. However, when I said I wanted to move downtown, she was a bit apprehensive about it,” Michael said. “But I wanted to be downtown. I live in waterfront property in a major city; anywhere else outside of Detroit that isn't something I could afford. ... Now, my parents come to visit and they stay all day. They appreciate the lifestyle I have here.”

The more people who come to Detroit, the better a place it will be, Abby said. “Word travels fast, and good experiences will only make things better.”

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