On a stretch of Detroit’s West Side with mostly empty storefronts, the building with “Fried Fish” painted on its window hasn’t served food in years. A small tree had grown up in the alley. Plywood patched holes in the back.

Detroit has long been overwhelmed by properties like this, decaying structures that have become time capsules of more prosperous days. For years, such buildings were largely allowed to rot in place, sliding to the bottom of the priority list in an era when trash was uncollected, parks unmown and budgets out of balance.

That is changing. Detroit, which 10 years ago became the largest American city to file for bankruptcy, now has money for basic government functions like park maintenance and a business code that have long fallen short of the city’s hierarchy of needs.

Abandoned buildings like the old fish restaurant that collected thousands of dollars in citations are being scrutinized recently with hopes that they will either be spruced up or torn down. On a steamy day last month, city crews cleared brush from the alley and slapped a fresh coat of brown paint on the front of the building — small steps the workers saw as evidence that Detroit had turned a corner.

However, in a sprawling city with a long list of challenges, there is no consensus on what to tackle first. There are no quick fixes. And there is no choice but to move one troubled package at a time.

“We’re eating an elephant here,” said Alvin Nunn, a supervising building inspector who spent a recent afternoon surveying another dying commercial corridor whose vacant buildings have broken windows, peeling paint and trees growing on sapling roofs. “The corridor is the first bites of the elephant.”

Back in July 2013, when Detroit sought bankruptcy protection, it was failing at the foundations of governance after decades of disinvestment and population loss. Retired city workers saw their pension benefits reduced. Some questioned whether the city that boomed along with the American auto industry had much of a future.

A decade later, the city defied the most dire predictions. Budgets stabilized, basic services were restored, home values ​​increased and pockets of development took root.

Moody’s raised Detroit’s credit rating to one notch below investment grade in a report this spring, continuing steady progress since the city emerged from bankruptcy with a reduced pension burden. Analysts praised Detroit for its budget management and revenue growth, but said the city remains vulnerable to an economic downturn and constrained by high poverty rates.

“While the city continues to improve,” said David Strungis, Moody’s vice president and principal analyst, it still hasmore challenges than our average city.”

For those who survived the bankruptcy, the change is stark. Brad Dick, a longtime city worker who is now Detroit’s chief operating officer, recalled meetings that took place just before the bankruptcy filing to make sure there was enough fuel for police cars in case vendors cut off the city’s accounts.

Currently, he’s helping oversee construction on a nearly 28-mile stretch of trails and green space, the first portion of which opened last year, and is laying out a plan to build a space for weddings and other events in a city park.

“Did I ever think that I could ever go to a mayor eight years ago and present him with a wedding party? No,” said Mr. Dick. “I was just trying to cut the grass. I tried to get garbage trucks.”

Detroit remains a place with abundant problems. Abandoned houses, although less in number than before, continue to atrophy. Violent crime remains ubiquitous. And, according to census data that the mayor disputes, Detroit’s decade-long population decline has continued, with about 620,000 residents today. In 1950, the city’s population peaked at more than 1.8 million.

Detroit’s simultaneous realities add urgency to this moment, when the national economy is healthy and the city’s coffers are full of federal pandemic relief funds. For the first time in a long time, there is money to go beyond the basics, offering an opportunity to think about aesthetics.

“No one in Chicago ever called their sister to say, ‘My street lights are on!’ You don’t celebrate that in a vibrant city,” said Mayor Mike Duggan, who was first elected during the bankruptcy and is now in his third term. “And we don’t want to celebrate those things. Here, we want to celebrate the new park, the new riverfront.”

Indeed, parks in the city have thrived since the bankruptcy, when about half of them were closed. The Detroit River waterfront, once an unwelcoming mass of concrete, now has scenic walkways and fishing spots shared by residents and tourists.

At a butcher shop on a dilapidated stretch of Seven Mile Road, however, owner Joe Kawa said he’s seen the neighborhood decline since the 1990s. There were few customers left, he said, and he was considering closing.

His brother and co-worker, Steve Kawa, who lives near the store, said the city needs to focus on increasing the population and reducing crime. Then, he said, businesses would be more likely to invest.

Gabriela Santiago-Romero, a newly elected City Council member from Southwest Detroit, said she would prefer to see a greater effort to improve the city’s infrastructure. She said she was “less focused on pretty things and more focused on functional assets.”

Ms. Santiago-Romero said that while she understood the city’s strategy for dealing with blight, she worried that the code enforcement blitz was punishing property owners who had made it through Detroit’s worst days but now had little ability to pay for improvements. .

“To go from a place,” she said, “where you could basically do what you wanted to or not be held accountable by the city, to now being told, ‘Here are all the codes, here are all the things you have to do. and keep, ‘ I think it’s a bit unfair.”

In the first years after bankruptcy, development was mostly concentrated in the downtown and urban areas of the city, around corporate offices and colleges and museums.

But over the past several years, the city has tried to spur investment in struggling commercial strips in other parts of Detroit. The city, which has an area of ​​139 square miles, has used public money to widen sidewalks, install bike lanes and help businesses get started.

Edward Carrington, a developer who lives in the city, decided to take a chance on one of those strips, along East Warren Avenue, where the parking lot of a former Pizza Hut was converted into a farmers market and ginkgo trees were planted next door. new bike lanes. But foot traffic is limited and buildings are still boarded up.

Looking back, Mr. Carrington said the bankruptcy was a reset button for the city — one that caused real pain for many people but that also gave Detroit a chance to refine its identity.

Mr. Carrington said he is hopeful for the future of his town, and for the future of the closed bank he bought in East Warren. For the past two years, he has been working with area residents to come up with a plan for a new building on the site, which will house a pasta restaurant on the ground floor and apartments above. Construction is underway.

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