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Downtown lowdown

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Having grown up in Detroit, Jeannette Pierce has endured her fair share of “Murder City” cracks and jokes about “Detroit: Where the weak are killed and eaten.” But the attitude that Detroit is such a dangerous place to live has never made much sense to her. Bad things can happen anywhere (the only time she was ever mugged was when studying abroad) — and wonderful things can happen in Detroit.

“People are always so surprised when they learn something good about Detroit, like it’s a fluke,” she says. “It’s not a fluke, this is a great town.”

By day, Pierce works as an event planner for the United Way. She’s also a member of Detroit Synergy (a coalition of city boosters) and a volunteer tour guide for Preservation Wayne. Recently, she and business partner Maureen Kearns started up their own tour organization, Inside Detroit. Their mission is to counter the misgivings and misinformation outsiders have about a city that’s gotten a bad rap. They’re not willing to put up with the notion that Detroit is just a textbook example of urban decay.

“What we are offering is more like an outing. It’s not really a tour or a pub crawl,” Pierce says. “Every outing is 100 percent personalized. If you like the blues, DJs, shopping, architecture, whatever, I’ll show you what you like.”

Pierce’s enthusiasm is hard to resist.

“It’s not like I want Detroit to become a Chicago or a New York. We have our own thing here, and it’s good, but we do have sports teams, the opera, festivals, a waterfront ... and yet, there’s only 6,000 people living downtown,” she says. “If you don’t want one of those lofts with all the amenities, almost anyone can afford to live downtown. Where else can that happen?”

As she figures it, she can walk to 100 different bars and restaurants from her apartment. And Pierce, who is in her 20s, insists there’s something special about the mingling that goes on in city bars.

“Outside of the city, when people go to the bar, they tend to only talk to the people they came with or the people they are trying to go home with,” Pierce says. She believes strongly that the integration of people from all walks of life — which city living encourages — is essential. “When you meet someone who is nothing like you, you are taken off of autopilot.”

And to boot, she points out, downtown is full of music and art, which, as we all know, can get people away from TV and “make the world a better place.”

It bothers Pierce if a businessperson comes to Detroit and sits alone in a hotel bar not knowing that there’s fabulous jazz around the corner. When young couples leave the city after a Red Wings game, she can only assume it’s because they don’t know that a world-famous DJ is spinning just a couple of blocks away. New residents will drive 25 miles to buy groceries because they haven’t discovered Eastern Market or the quaint little grocery store closer by. She thinks these things are totally unnecessary, not to mention detrimental to her hometown.

This Friday, Pierce and Kearns will host a launch party for Inside Detroit at one of downtown’s newest nightspots, Pulse. It’s a choice that reflects her approach to community building: “Because Pulse is relatively new itself, I wanted to be able to introduce people to it. It’s kind of hidden; you could easily walk right past it. I want people to know it’s there.”

The launch party will be a meet-and-greet of sorts. There will be free hors d’oeuvres, drink specials and a Detroit-themed trivia game with prizes.

And with Super Bowl XL around the corner, the timing couldn’t be better.

“I’ll be partnering with Detroit Synergy to give tours during Super Bowl week, and I am sure I’ll be doing tours for Preservation Wayne too. It’s all a partnership anyway,” Pierce says.

“I see this as a win-win-win-win type of situation: The people win, the businesses win, the city wins, and I win. I know it sounds silly, but I love talking, I love Detroit, and I love meeting new people. This is the definition of fun for me.”

 

5:30-11 p.m., Friday, Jan. 6, at Pulse, 156 Monroe St., Detroit; 313-420-0313. Visit insidedetroit.org for more information.

Eve Doster is the listings editor for Metro Times. Send comments to edoster@metrotimes.com

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