When I first stepped foot onto the corner of Ford and Middlebelt in Garden City, Michigan, I wasn’t expecting much. In fact, I thought I’d hate it, that it would cause all the pent-up frustration within me to spew forth in lethal torrents of toxic ennui. That was, basically, the game plan.
You see, I’d heard radio ads for days on the local Christmas music station bragging about the shops and magical lights in downtown Garden City. And while to you, unassuming readers, that might sound perfectly ordinary, for a seasoned Metro Detroiter, that’s the equivalent of hearing Alaska proclaim itself a tropical paradise.
Naturally, I had to investigate.
Nestled between Dearborn Heights, Livonia, Westland, and Inkster, Garden City is smack dab in the middle of some of Metro Detroit’s most uninspired suburban sprawl – uncountable miles of cheap vinyl siding and fast food, interrupted only by the occasional empty field. Here within this delectable slice of suburbia, sidewalks are considered optional and often unnecessary, a burdensome investment that would surely detract from the city’s pothole repair funds.
To put it bluntly, it’s an exceedingly unlikely spot for for (sorry, I’m having a hard time typing this) for a downtown.
My first impression after walking around a bit, however, was surprise at the physical size of downtown Garden City. Though by no means large, three of the four corners are built up in the traditional urban style – the buildings are packed up close to the street and the spacious sidewalks provide plenty of room for the bulky and slim pedestrian alike. I was expecting downtown to take up maybe one side of a street at best, but clearly I was mistaken.
At night during the holidays, when the tidy rows of trees along the road are alight in all their LED glory, you can almost see what the Garden City Downtown Development Authority’s commercial hints at. The Christmas displays in the windows at Orin Jeweler, which includes a charming nativity scene and a depiction of a Santa and his reindeer, even add a touch a romance to the scene.
For starters, there are two pizza buffets, a pet store, and a miniature golf course all within walking distance, which should already satisfy most people’s basic needs. Most anything else you’d ever need you can buy down the road at the world’s first Kmart – yes, the very first one – or at Sav-On Drugs.
On top of that, the zit-faced teenager population has either Game Yard or Pandemonium to hang out at (the latter a Dungeons & Dragons mecca), while their parents can whittle away the hours at Joe D’s Bar and the drab but well-stocked sex store Intimate Ideas.
What more could you want? Honestly?
Truly there’s something for everyone in Garden City.
Sure, downtown Garden City will never rival New York City, but it’s a better than another mall, right?
Photography by Steve Hilton.