DETROIT (WWJ) — Taking in “the good, the bad and the ugly.” That’s how organizers of the Detroit bankruptcy bus tour described their travels through the city on Friday.
The trip — discussed months ago by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes — finally came to fruition on Friday afternoon.
The tour, which was said to take just over three hours, covering 58 miles with no media allowed along for the ride, came ahead of bankruptcy confirmation hearings scheduled for later in August in federal court.
Robert Hertzberg with Pepper Hamilton, a law firm helping to assist the city with the restructuring process, served as the host of the tour.
“Can you cover all of Detroit in three hours? Absolutely not,” Hertzberg said. “It’s a massive footprint, the city. Did we cover a good area of the city? I think so.”
The tour came at the request of Judge Rhodes, who wanted to see both the blight and rebuilding of Detroit. Among those on board was Greg Schumaker from the Washington D.C. law firm Jones Day, who was hired by the city to assist with the restructuring.
“You could do this by pictures, but you do not get a sense of the scale of the problem unless you actually go and travel a route like we did,” Schumaker said. “It’s one thing to look at a house decay, it’s another to see entire neighborhoods decimated and I don’t think anybody who would go through this tour wouldn’t think ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t know how bad it was.'”
The trip began on the city’s West Side in the Brightmoor neighborhood and headed east to stop at a combined police precinct on Gratiot. The tour then went downtown to Eastern Market and back up Woodward, along what will be the M-1 railway.
“We thought it was very important for the judge — in looking through the largest municipal bankruptcy in history — to go out and see the municipality, to get away from the sterility of the courtroom and see what the conditions are in the city,” Shumaker said. “So, we went and saw the blighted neighborhoods. We went and saw some of the nicer neighborhoods as well — we saw sort of the good, the bad and the ugly.”
The tour also made stops at the old State Fair Grounds and concluded with a brief visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts.
“We’re going to be presenting evidence as part of the confirmation process that starts in a week,” Hertzberg said. “We thought that it was extremely important for the court to be able to see these and provide the context to the evidence that is going to be presented at the hearing.”
“It’s eye-opening. I didn’t realize how bad it was,” Schumaker said.