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What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Detroit, Michigan?

Poverty. Government handouts. Urban decay.

My oldest daughter, her husband, and their two sons live in a Detroit neighborhood designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, an architect whose work is studied at universities around the world. That neighborhood is called Lafayette Park.

Lafayette Park is very close to the heart of Detroit. Ford Field, Comerica Park and Greektown are within walking distance. The Renaissance Center is visible from their street, almost close enough to touch. I-375 is within a block. A city block.

Aerial View of Lafayette Park

Yet the neighborhood is quiet, lush and verdant, shaded by old locust trees. People say “Hi” when you walk by. Children play in the playground and ride the usual assortment of wheeled toys on the sidewalks. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the aerial view of the neighborhood on the left.

The Book

My daughter and her husband, both architects, are pretty involved in the workings of Detroit. They put on architectural displays and attend numerous meetings that attempt to point the city in a positive direction. That’s on top of their day jobs, and raising two boys that are rambunctious and full of life. The schedule seems pretty insane to me, but it’s not all they do.

Just recently my daughter worked with some other talented people to put together a book about Lafayette Park. She wrote one chapter of it, and when I read that chapter I just about popped a button.

My daughter can write.

In fact, The New York Times thought enough of the book to feature it in their Home and Garden section. Her chapter of the book, an Essay titled Lafayette Park: Living in Ordered Exhibition, was featured on the website of The Design Observer Group.

Okay, the bragging is out of the way. Back to my original point.

Every time I visit with my daughter and her family, my own viewpoint of Detroit is altered a bit. Those kids and their neighbors are living their lives and raising their children in a place that is rich in culture, tastefully landscaped, and safe.

The residents you meet are a varied assortment of race and ethnicity. They aren’t poor, or needy, or on some government program. Most of them are highly educated and very talented. And many of them are young. Urban hipsters who have started raising families.

It’s not my kind of living, but it’s a pretty good life for my grandkids.