Oh, Detroit (and Canada!)

Lee's Summit JournalMay 30, 2014 

If I would have only realized Canada was so close to Kansas City, I would have gone there years ago.

The loonies, toonies, poutine and beautiful skyline looking back toward the United States – it was all quite a sight to take in a few weeks ago.

And, believe it or not, Detroit wasn’t so bad, either.

I had the privilege to travel with members of our Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street bunch to the Motor City for the national conference.

While one may rightfully ponder why Detroit was selected, I for one was anxious to see the town that has seen the transformation from bustling to hurting to striving for revitalization over the past few decades.

The downtown buildings were really breathtaking. The old Wayne County courthouse, a masterpiece (albeit for sale). And the overall vibe was, frankly, pretty cool.

Downtown Detroit offers a lot to do, see, hear and eat. And you can hit many of those places for less than a buck on their elevated train system, the People Mover.

Each stop on the People Mover around downtown Detroit features public art (hint, hint, Lee’s Summit) and even though the route is just a few miles, you have access to a large portion of that area within blocks of many of the stops.

Yes, there is crime in Detroit. And yes, the downtown was scrubbed up a bit for the arrival of thousands of Main Street conference goers that week.

But Detroit deserves a nod for still answering the bell every day. There is a huge emphasis right now on blight clean up, repurpose of abandoned buildings and homes, residential density and the downtown core.

And just a few minutes away, a town in a different country, Windsor, Ontario, awaited those of us that remembered our passport.

Windsor is a town of over 200,000 just across the Detroit River. And actually, it is south of the Motor City.

Their downtown was quaint, bustling with a plethora of options for the resident and tourist foodies. And it was quiet. Save a few street performers, we felt like the loud Americans on this visit.

Of course some of that came from my shrieking at the opportunity to go into The Windsor Star, the six-day-a-week newspaper that serves the area. The newspaper geek in me loved seeing the office of this newspaper, the old editions hanging on the wall and even part of an old press in the lobby. Bonus points that the offices are in downtown Windsor, too.

And I couldn’t let the trip north (actually south) go without trying some poutine – a Canadian dish of French fries topped with a gravy-like substance and cheese curds. And at South Detroit restaurant, you can get it with bacon bits and blue cheese.

I enjoyed it immensely, but the crew I traveled with found the gravy to be a little “ducky” in nature. Hey, when in Rome…

Don’t believe what you’ve heard about Detroit. It is fascinating.

And if it’s not your speed, Canada is seven minutes away.


John Beaudoin is the publisher of the Lee’s Summit Journal. To comment, call 816-282-7001 or e-mail jbeaudoin@lsjournal.com.

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