5 Great Neighborhoods in Detroit
Flagship Neighborhood: Grosse Pointe
When Henry Ford’s son Edsel wanted a home of his own, Dad hired architect Albert Kahn to build him a St. Clair lakefront, 60-room “cottage” in Grosse Pointe. Edsel and his wife, Eleanor, lived there all their lives; Eleanor died there in 1976. If your perfect neighbor is a charter member of the yacht club, civic-minded and wealthy enough to support several favorite charities, Grosse Pointe might be a community you could comfortably call home. The other houses there are just as sumptuous.
The Neighbors: Old money.
Also Consider: Grosse Pointe Woods, Grosse Pointe Farms, Grosse Pointe Shores
The rest of “The Pointes” as they are known, are comfortable, older and relatively affordable communities full of big, conventional colonials on shady streets with sidewalks. The people who live in them run the gamut from longtime residents to newlyweds and young families who like the idea of living in a town with an active Young Republicans Club. Upper middle class people who work Downtown at Wayne State, Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Hospital, GM headquarters or Compuware, but want a suburban lifestyle and a reasonable commute.
Flagship Neighborhood: Bloomfield Hills
The windy roads lead to multimillion-dollar mansions. Some people call it the Automotive Alps because it’s where the big new money lives. The schools, both public and elite private ones like Detroit Country Day and Cranbrook, are good enough to get the ruling class offspring into top colleges. For a glimpse of some of the toniest homes, turn east off of Telegraph Road onto Long Lake. The farther you go, the more magnificent it gets.
The Neighbors: Sports stars, entrepreneurs and automotive execs whose last names aren’t Ford.
Also Consider: Bloomfield Township and West Bloomfield Township
Less pricey than Bloomfield Hills. Bloomfield Township has plenty of roomy houses on big wooded lots and it shares Bloomfield Hill’s great schools, but it doesn’t have the mansions, the cachet or the taxes. Young families on the way up will be your neighbors. Live on one of West Bloomfield’s half-dozen lakes and you may have rich neighbors. If you don’t live lakeside, West Bloomfield is a pleasant suburban mix of ranchers, colonials and condos with convenient shopping. Soccer moms will feel at home here.
Flagship Neighborhood: Ann Arbor
Forbes magazine called it one of the best-educated small towns in the country. The University of Michigan dominates the economy and the politics, although there are an increasingly large number of technology employers, attracted to the area by the abundant brainpower. Everybody in Ann Arbor sends their children to Montessori schools, being green is practically mandatory, and if you don’t like Big Blue football, you probably should live someplace else.
The Neighbors: Aging baby boomers, technology professionals and lots of scientists, doctors and professors as well as a zillion students and grads who can't pull themselves away from the this cool college town.
Also Consider: Northville and Plymouth, both of which have cute downtowns with shops, restaurants and condos. Most residents live in the surrounding big developments full of McMansions, though. These towns are a few miles east of Ann Arbor, giving residents easy access to everybody's favorite destination for good restaurants and watering holes, while still allowing them to commute to car companies and Detroit Metro Airport.
Flagship Neighborhood: Wyandotte
Wyandotte is the downtown to an area of Detroit known as Downriver. Downriver is the part of town that runs along the Detroit River and all the way to Lake Erie. It’s industrial, but it’s also charming and eminently livable. The water’s been cleaned up, and the walleye and perch fishing is great here. All the high schools have rowing clubs, and the kids learn to drive a boat years before they get behind the wheel of a car.
The bustling main drag in Wyandotte is Biddle Avenue, which doesn’t look much different than it did in 1950. There are furniture and hardware stores, dress shops and a couple of ice cream parlors, plus more than a few restaurants, many of which specialize in the local favorite, fried lake perch. Most of the houses were built in the 1930s and the blocks closest to the Detroit River have been restored. The houses directly on the river are pricey.
The Neighbors: Auto workers or steel workers and small-business owners
Trenton has grown increasingly upscale in recent years with dozens of new waterfront condominiums and trendy restaurants. The main street has everything from art galleries to the American Legion. The schools are well regarded and the town has lots of amenities, all paid for by car company tax dollars. Many young couples find buying and fixing up a house here an attractive proposition.
Grosse Ile is an island in the Detroit River where wealthy Detroiters had summer homes in the early part of the 20th century. Now it’s a desirable suburb where executives who work in Downriver industrial headquarters live year-round.
Gibraltar is a waterfront community on the Detroit River. There are three times more boats than houses here, and it’s still possible to buy lakefront property for under $300,000.
Flagship Neighborhood: Detroit Riverfront
The banks of the Detroit River are lined with around 25 high-rise condominium complexes. The strip begins at Riverfront Towers just south of the Joe Louis Arena where the Redwings play and continues past the General Motors headquarters in the Renaissance Center to Marina Village. The high-rises range from restored 1920s-era luxury buildings to new communities like Harbortown. There are also warehouses that have been converted to lofts and townhomes. Virtually all have a view of the water and many have their own marinas. Just across the channel is Belle Island, a city park with two yacht clubs, a nature trail and a golf course. The Detroit Riverfront is the perfect place to live if you want to be near the sports arenas and culture spots of the urban core.
The Neighbors: A diverse mix of longtime Detroit residents, urban pioneers and empty-nesters.
Also consider: Indian Village or Palmer Woods, the central city's two most elite neighborhoods. Indian Village was built at the turn of the 20th century for well-to-do families of industrial executives. You can buy a 1920s-era mansion for a good price. Palmer Woods, an enclave of Tudor architecture, has always been home to physicians, business owners and other civic leaders. Today both communities attract a significant number of successful African-American families who want an urban lifestyle.