Who says Cass Corridor had to be saved? Part 1

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The common narrative of the Cass Corridor is that it was one of Detroit’s worst and most notorious neighborhoods, known primarily for its pimps, hookers, junkies, addicts and just about any other reason why any self-respecting upstanding citizen would never want to live there. The logical conclusion of that narrative ends at the conception of Midtown, which in some ways, rightly or wrongly, has come to represent Nouveau Detroit. Or, perhaps, Detroit Nouveau. To some, the transformation of Midtown has been a remarkable thing to behold  and worthy of all praises. To others, however, particularly certain longtime residents, the glorification of Midtown is somewhat akin to Columbus ‘discovering’ America; it was already here, already occupied, and not particularly in need of discovery or of anyone else’s idea of an upgrade.

So meet Jim Carney and Bridget Tuohey, two long-time residents of more than 50 years who aren’t quite as enthralled with the Midtown (Modtown…?) -ization of their beloved Cass Corridor. Sure it was a tough place in many ways back in ‘the day’, and neither can recount exactly how many times their respective homes were broken into nor do they deny the rather blatant presence of hookers, pimps,  and other edgy characters.

But then…so what?

Just because Cass Corridor wasn’t for everybody doesn’t mean it wasn’t for anybody, right? To some, the toughness, and the quirkiness of the Cass Corridor was what made it a special place to live. Not everybody could handle the edge, and that was just fine. But for those who could, the rewards could be great. But then it depends on what you would call a reward. Says Tuohy:

“To be truthful?  I mean, for a lot of us, that bad undercurrent was actually…”

“One of the draws,” finishes Carney with a laugh.

“…sort of attractive. It really didn’t touch us so much,” continued Tuohey.  “It was there, and it was annoying, especially for young women, the hooker stuff. Because guys would solicit even if you were walking down the street in a WSU T-shirt walking a dog and not wearing typical hooker gear whatsoever. But we got kinda tough about it. And I think we were proud in a funny sort of way.”

Part 1 | Part 2 | Postscript

 

 

About Keith Owens

Keith Owens is a freelance writer, columnist, blogger and musician whose most recent work has been featured in Model D Detroit, BLAC Detroit, and the national political affairs blog PoliticusUSA. He has also published three novels through Detroit Ink Publishing (www.detroitinkpublishing.com), the eBook publishing company he co-founded with his wife, Pamela Hilliard Owens. Keith and Pam live in a 100-year-old home in the Historic Boston-Edison District a few miles north of the El Moore.

Comments

  1. Sue Blouch says:

    Right On! I’m a Cass Corridor alumni and basically grew up on Prentis from 1976 to 1985. When the mountaineering hippies in Boulder, Colorado lost their appeal and I was needing a change, I met Bridget and Carney at a meeting. Concerned Citizens of the Cass Corridor? Civilian Alert Patrol? They showed me how to be single and appreciate the eclectic mix of people, events, and of course the neighborhood bars. It was a true community. I return regularly for R&R and am continuously astonished at the yuppification in my ‘hood. It’s about time my friends at the core of the Corridor, get some good press. Detroit bashers, pay attention.
    Kudos to the author, Keith Owens.

El Moore