Over the next two weeks, Next City will unroll short profiles of 77 people, places and ideas that have changed cities this year. Together, they make up our 2012 Disruption Index. Forefront subscribers can download the Index in full as a PDF, complete with beautiful designs and graphics by Danni Sinisi. Readers who make a $75 donation to Next City will have a full-color printed copy of the Index mailed to them.
Sure, you have the typical fancy hotels downtown. There are even a few cheesy casino hotels around. But for a city where you can buy a house for $5,000, there weren’t a lot of cheap options for overnight accommodations in Detroit. And so, with community support and a healthy dose of bravery, then-26-year-old Emily Doerr opened the city’s first hostel in 2011. Located in the Corktown neighborhood, Hostel Detroit has become a popular destination for a steady stream of tourists coming to see the city. For backpackers, college students or European youth, it’s pretty much the only way to crash in Detroit for less than $50 a night.
Though a seemingly small venture in a big city, Hostel Detroit represents a significant milestone for Detroit. Almost symbolic in its import, the hostel is a sign that the city is open for tourists — especially those on the younger, less affluent and more adventurous end of the spectrum. And it’s also good for Motor City; by providing a place for tourists to stay, Hostel Detroit is enabling the local tourism industry to diversify. It’s an idea other cities, or their entrepreneurs, would be wise to consider.
Nate Berg is a writer and journalist covering cities, architecture and urban planning. Nate’s work has been published in a wide variety of publications, including the New York Times, NPR, Wired, Metropolis, Fast Company, Dwell, Architect, the Christian Science Monitor, LA Weekly and many others. He is a former staff writer at The Atlantic Cities and was previously an assistant editor at Planetizen.