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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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  • 1

    Maybe and maybe not.

    It depends upon their taste and elegance of thought.

    I drove into Birmingham late friday night from the East and it was a shock!

    Hideous, ghastly new buildings way out of scale with what used to be a charming little town. I lived there just out of college.

    So is Birmingham the new Downtown Detroit?

    Let us pray not. America should not be littered with such superficial trash.


  • 2

    The move to Detroit has been happening for more than a decade. The move has been made by people tired of racism and classism, not by the upwardly mobile folks wishing to gentrify Detroit.

    Gentrification, if allowed to progress will disenfranchise the average Detroiter. Look at Chicago. Cabrini Green once the poster child for poor public housing no longer exists. It is now a neighborhood of the affluent. What happened to residents. They were displaced.

    Philaldelphia did the same arround the University of Pennsylvania. Residents were pushed out in the name of progress. But progress for whom?

    Wayne State / Mid-Town / Culutral Center. If the powers that be have their way the poor, the homeless and the addicts will be pushed aside for progress.

    Watch out Biringham they be pushed to your community.

  • 3

    Even though it is only a slide across the county to the heart of Detroit, Quicken has make a step in the right direction.
    However, two execs in high dollar, high rise apartments are not much of an impact on Detroit. Downtown is not the entire city. It is a window dressing for the outside onlooker.
    What about the neighborhoods "inside" the city limits?
    What about the real employees with families? The worker bees with no housing allowance for a high rise? Oh yeah, they have their suburb homes where they have to go at night. Still a lot of eight hour folks.

    A step in the right direction. Yes. A huge influx of employees or new hires? NO. At this rate it may take about one hundred years, give or take.

    Not driving your car in the Motor City? What's up with that? Don't be that "Green". It's okay to use a little gas. Go to a picnic on Belle Isle, that is a great place.

    Still, I hope this is only the begining of the trend inward to Detroit. Other companies should take note. Start a new branch in Detroit. We have good people who need jobs. We have neighborhoods ready for you. If you perfer, we also have houses that need to be "fixed up" .
    Come check us out.

    Detroit Kid 51

  • 4

    My major issue with QUICKEN is the lack of diversity present in it's work force..Firms that don't value inclusion and diversity should not be celebrated and worshipped in any venues urban or suburban...

    I never enjoy reading these types of stories which makes heroes out of white folks who dare to live in Black venues ..It has the stench of contempt...I also resent the narrative that the city is not livable unless white folks are present and accounted for...

    I have this same attitude about urban farming a shallow and empty vision for complex urban venues..It also is an offensive premise that urban folks are only worthy of being farmers...

  • 5

    jeffpadams? I hope you can explain your defense of Cabrini Green as a "poster child for poor public housing". If it was a poster child for anything, it was a poster child for filth, uncontrolled crime of every conceivable type including murder, and the depths of human despair. If gentrification means ripping down a hell hole like Cabrini Green then we should all welcome it to Detroit with open arms. We have tons of "Cabrini Greens" right here in Detroit that could use some gentrification.

    But heaven forbid if we push aside the addicts in the name of progress. What would we ever do without the addicts to draw more young kids into addiction and rob, and kill for drug money.

    As for the poor and homeless, you're not doing them any favors by allowing them to live in filthy, crime infested slums. We need progressive solutions to help these people. Living in a festering, open sore of a slum is not a solution.

    Here is a thought. Detroit has hundreds of bldgs that we just abandon and leave for the scrapers, vandals and drug addicts to destroy. Old Cass Tech is one such bldg. It will now be torn down at a cost to the city of $millions. Why did we allow this to happen? Why did we not spend that money to renovate it into an apartment bldg for the poor and homeless? Train them to clean and maintain it. That would not only give them a decent place to live, but also help them provide for themselves and give them some much needed self respect as well. As for the worthless punks who threaten to take it over just as they did to Cabrini Green, put a Detroit Police sub station right on the ground floor.

  • 6

    Dear Gthrasher,

    50% of Detroit is functionally illiterate. I do not want illiterate people brokering my mortgages. And yes I live in the city. And I'm white and taking over! Ah!!!

    The only white people moving into the city are people who desire diversity, equality, justice and creativity. If we wanted more trashy white people we'd move out to Partridge Creek! So please do not disparage the suburban white kids moving into the city. We have good intentions and want to help make this city a place for all of us to live in. We also didn't have any black friends growing up and would love to get to know you.


    A well meaning suburban white kid who moved into the city

  • 7

    Dear well meaning suburban white kid,

    Nobody wants illiterate people anywhere brokering mortgages even mine...BTW even using your speculative stat there is still 50% potential candidates for QUICKEN to hire in the city also QUICKEN can even hire Black candiates who don't live in the city..

    Being white is no assurance that you can take over anything clearly being white has not improved the goverance and economics of our state and nation where the bulk of people running the country are white in both the private and public sector..

    I hope you are right about the quality of white people moving into the city but given the encounters I have had with white suburbanites I am not encouraged..

    Finally your excuse for not growing up with Black friends is tragic BTW believe it or not many Black people like me have lived in the suburbs for decades..


    A well meaning suburban Black man

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