The ruins of Detroit

Could this happen in Ireland

Great photos!

Great pictures. Amazing how recent, and grand, those buildings seem.

The nearest thing I can think of for Ireland is

Limerick would be the closest to this in Ireland. The street bought up for the opera centre is in a terrible state and many of the apartment blocks built on the riverside area are no go areas

Dang, what that town needs is some good spinners

The Spinners-Working my way back to you - YouTube BD

Stunning photographs. Then you watch the video.

The average house price there is $5,700, according to the presenter.

That’s not missing a zero or two.

He blames a society and governance based on entitlement. I think there’s a little more to it than that, but…

Don’t forget the Motor City… It’ll take more than music to fix this one.

On a flight ready to depart for Detroit, Jack is already seated when another guy takes the seat beside him.
The guy is an emotional wreck, pale, hands shaking, moaning in fear.
“What’s the matter?” asks Jack.
“I’ve been transferred to Detroit, there’s some real crazy people out there, lots of shootings, gangs, race riots, drugs, poor public schools, and the highest crime rate anywhere.”
Jack replies, “No, I’ve lived in Detroit all my life, and it’s not as bad as the media makes out. Find a nice home, go to work, mind your own business and enroll your kids in a nice private school. It’s as safe a place as anywhere in the
So the guy finally relaxes then says, “Thanks, I’ve been worried to death about it, but if you live there and say it’s OK, I’ll take your word for it. By the way, what do you do for a living?”
“Me?” says Jack,“me I’m a tail gunner on a Budweiser truck.” :open_mouth:

That’s like the old Miami Airport gag.

“Sir, are you carrying any concealed weapons?”


“Here, take these.” :smiling_imp: … d=15108683 … 9b5386de46

Wonderful photos, thanks.

But not the product of a property bubble. Primarily a result of suburban sprawl and “white flight” from the late 1960s onwards with business disappearing from the downtown area, north of “8 mile” the suburban highway made famous by Eminem.

Downtown Detroit had been making something of a recovery in the 1990s but the destruction of its motor industry is a devastating blow.

Major lessons for Ireland? Detroit is proof of that most banal of real estate cliques - location, location, location. Those beautiful buildings were allowed to rot and decay because they were in locations people did not want to live or do business. Recent construction in Ireland will become derelict if they were built in the wrong locations e.g. housing estates in Westmeath, large retail complexes outside small towns.

Our construction was much less graceful or solid than those abandoned Detroit landmarks. We should devise a scheme to demolish such properties before they become eyesores.

Interesting footage but highly simplistic analysis that barely mentions the rise of the Japanese auto industry. You know you’re hardly going to get a balanced piece when you hear the following “Things like education, training and healthcare – more entitlement programs”.

Stunning photos Smirnoff by the way, great find.

Would that have changed the analysis though? the Japanese went from making cheap crap cars that rusted in a short time (early Datsuns and Toyotas), to producing cheaper more reliable and technologically better cars. They even made them in the Southern states to get around American protectionism. Detroits overheads and work practices cost them in the market place, that failure to change and engage the consumer cost the Detroit companies and ultimately their employees. Rather than change to compete, the refusal to change and the overhead of the entitlement programs stifled them, that’s the point the program makes.

Now they have a situation where the likes of KIA Motors, a Korean company is moving in to take market share and they can compete despite the government bailouts.

Of course the foreign trade policies and deficits run by the American government also have an impact, but this is not just a Detroit phenomenon.

Well in fairness BR, he starts his analysis of by highlighting Detroit’s record of electing “Leftist” Mayors since 1960 – so let’s just say he has a Point of View.

Look, of course restrictive work practices are and were a huge problem , and the unions were a large part of that problem - you correctly mention the Japanese’s strategic decision to locate away from Detroit to avoid the whole mess.
But it went beyond that – the story of how the Japanese went from making rustbuckets to cheap, quality cars has been well told and somewhat mythologized, but it’s fair to say there were other factors – newer plant and equipment, a management culture that sought innovation through incremental steps, a participative (in some senses) approach to employee involvement – all the Kaizen, lean, 6 sigma stuff – the Japanese were well down the road before the rest of the industry woke up. I worked for a short time in the auto industry in the late 80’s and can recall spending time at the Ford plant in Dagenham and the Nissan plant in Sunderland – two UK base plants that might as well have been from two different planets and it went way beyond the “Union vs non Union” divide.

You ask if any of this changes the analysis – in one way, you’re correct, Detroit was a sitting duck and had it not been the Japanese, it probably would have been someone else. My point is that it’s too simplistic to say that “leftist unions” did all of this.

Sunderland Nissan was highly unionised. The Japanese car plants are also highly unionised.

The single union model is one that the Japanese imported from the US, as far as I remember…

As far as I’m aware, the US car plants were also single union…

So what is the difference? Management attitude, perhaps?

Well some of the generic management culture I mentioned in my previous post, yes.

A lot of the differences were fairly obvious even to a wet-behind the ears engineering graduate like I was. Bearing in mind that I haven’t set foot in an auto plant for 20 years, some of the stuff I’ll mention is now either standard industrial practice or out-dated, but it would have included: Newer plant and more productive layout, greater use of robotics, more ergonomic work stations, multi-task operators and teams.
On the culture side, the most striking thing was that everyone from Plant Manager to Operator wore the same blue overalls with their name embroidered on them – no job titles. Electronic scoreboards located around the plant showed production targets for the day and number of vehicles already produced. Like in any plant, a worker could stop a line whenever in difficulty, however at key points, any line-stoppage would produce an audio-visual alarm (police-car light kind of thing) to alert the area supervisor. And the Quality Management was on a way different level – multi-disciplined quality working groups that actually implemented things. I remember as a supplier, Nissan really drove our quality much harder than the others – regularly visiting our component plant and insisting we adopt similar quality measure to theirs etc.

As I say, a lot of that is now textbook stuff but at the time it was clear that Nissan had it implemented whereas Ford were trying to get there.

That said, whenever at Nissan, I did kind of miss the friendly East End tea-ladies that wandered around the Dagenham plant distributing refreshment to the masses!

The tories in their muddled way sought to bring Japanese manufacturing standards to Britain in order to make Britain competitive as a manufacturing location.

It did work to an extent, look at JCB for example.

One of the best blogs on the web goes perfectly with these pictures:

Month by month, it chronicles the decay of some of the finest buildings in America and the heroic struggle of citizens against social collapse. At once hilarious and heart-breaking, it’s a warning to all of civilization’s fragility.

I found the picture of Michigan Central Station quite arresting, so I went Googling. What I found was not quite what I expected.

According to Wikipedia Michigan Central Station was a bit of a white elephant. It seems it was built in an inconvenient location, which ultimately isolated it from the bulk of the city (this is all in the 1910s to 30s). The big tower above the station was meant to be a hotel, pizzeria, toy recycling business, eco-coffin wholesaler, cut-price butchers, wedding dress-hire shop or casino. But it was only ever used as offices by the station operators. I think this picture gives another feel to the thing – the ‘why did they build it there?’ feel.

The story after the Second World War seems to be one of ‘what do we do with this turkey that we should never have built’. The whole thing limped on until Amtrak in 1988 moved to a much smaller station, reportedly in a more convenient location.

Michigan Central Station is a bit like that old Psychiatric Hospital in Cork – this great big yoke that no-one quite knows what to do with, but can’t be demolished because of a chorus of vague complaint that some purpose should surely be invented for it. Like selling it off to be developed as apartments and then buying it back for social housing.

So wtf am I on about? It’s just about how an image can not be quite what we think it is. That said, I’ve no knowledge other than what I’ve Googled. But there seems to be a bit of an internet industry in generating sad pictures of Detroit. Those pictures, I’m sure, communicate that sense of change and the inevitable unease that has to come as Western societies lose their ability to make stuff. Because does anyone really think a downgraded autoworker can make a first world income from selling Christmas trees to other downgraded autoworkers?

What’s on my mind is these images of Michigan Central Station are being used as illustrations something that its not. For example, it does not seem accurate to say

as the station seems to have been the focus of an intention to develop a new ‘epicenter’, but utterly failed to do it – something like Shannon Airport, say.

Going back to the OP, could this happen in Ireland? First ask what the image seems to be saying – that infrastructure-first development doesn’t work. People won’t come to Michigan Central Station just because it’s big, any more than they’ll fly to Shannon because it has a 3,000 metre runway. So the immediate relevance would be things like DAA’s Terminal 2 and the Docklands, IMHO. Just because lots of offices are built doesn’t mean anyone will turn up to occupy them.

That’s not to say that bona fide industries will not leave en masse for cheaper locations. It’s just to say that Michigan Central Station isn’t an image of that process.

What Michigan Central Station illustrates is the meaninglessness of the statement ‘build it and they will come’. How do you make a good slogan out of “Give them a reason to come, and build nothing unless you need it.”?