By Sandra McNeill

DETROIT (WWJ) – When I happened upon 68-year-old Phil Mitchell in the Lafayette Greens urban garden downtown, he painted a peaceful picture. He was sitting at a table, newspaper in hand.

Mitchell said he goes there a couple of times a month. Nearby, his wife, Joan, was working in the garden.The couple live right across the street at their retirement home. It’s a condo at the Westin Book Cadillac.

Joan Mitchell (credit: Sandra McNeil/WW)

Joan Mitchell (credit: Sandra McNeil/WW)

Joan Mitchell said they decided to move there from Grosse Ile, where they didn’t really know their neighbors. “We just got tired of being isolated from people,” said Joan. “So that’s when we got the idea to move downtown.”

In 2010, they sold up their lakefront home, and the fishing boat. Phil Mitchell said that they’ve never looked back. He seems to relish mostly the people.

“This is the way life should be lived,” said Mitchell. “When we step out of our condo and out onto the street in Detroit, we’re immediately with poor people, and rich people, and everything in between. People from every nationality.”

They all have the same heart, he said. And the conversation always comes back to the same thing: the rebirth of Detroit.

When they moved in, Detroit was a ghost town. Now Mitchell watches the vacant buildings fill up and said he loves how he can walk everywhere he wants to go.

There are some people they don’t see as much anymore, though. Some of Joan’s friends said, if they moved to the city, they would never visit. Most have kept their word, except for one. A friend will visit for the first time next week.

Joan said she has to pick her up and drive her into the city herself.


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