Philip Kafka lives in a hut. His metal house could play a part in the effort to revitalize (give life back to) Detroit, Michigan. You remember Detroit—poverty, crime, bankruptcy, decay. Now this New York investor and a Los Angeles architect are teaming up to revive Motor City.
Detroit has been a key manufacturing hub since the 1800s. Nearby were major centers of coal, copper, and iron. Plus, the city offered easy land-to-water access. Cigars, food, machinery, and medicine factories all thrived in and around the Great Lakes metropolis.
Detroit was also well-suited to another business: the automobile industry. Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company there in 1903—and 125 car companies soon followed. Detroit became an auto boomtown.
But Detroit changed. In the 1950s, auto industry jobs declined. Serious crime rose. The combo drove residents out by the hundreds of thousands. Race riots in the 1960s were followed by crime and gang activity. By the 1980s, the once-bustling city was almost a ghost town.
In the 1990s, Detroit spiraled further into urban decay—abandoned, vandalized buildings were the norm. More jobs shifted to the suburbs or out of state.
Philip Kafka is a New York City investor. He saw a business opportunity in Detroit—and a chance to help.
“It is sad to see abandoned buildings, broken windows, people in poverty, and racial discrimination,” Kafka told an Epoch Times interviewer. He began buying vacant buildings and lots there five years ago.
Detroit’s Woodbridge–Core City area has the same gloomy quality as much of the city. A few tidy buildings still stand. But they are alongside empty lots next to vacant storefronts beside crumbling houses.
So Kafka is building cheap, easy-to-erect Quonset huts in the glum neighborhood. Quonsets are half-moon-shaped steel structures—originally made for World War II military use.
Edwin Chan, a top Los Angeles architect, designed Kafka’s modern huts. The largest unit measures 1,600 square feet and is three stories high. The smallest are just 600 square feet.
Kafka’s own Detroit home is one of the steel huts. Kafka says Detroit residents want this type of affordable housing. He believes the homes could draw more outsiders to the city, a good start toward urban revival.
Detroit’s story echoes the human story of creation–fall–redemption–restoration. Sin destroyed God’s beautiful world. But from the decay, God reclaimed mankind through Jesus’ death. Now “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)