DETROIT — The buildings sit, one after another, on E Vernor Highway — dilapidated houses, abandoned businesses, boarded-up structures, vacant lots populated by more weeds than cars driving down the multilane street.

It’s a row of blight on the east side of Detroit, a city searching for recovery for decades. In the middle of this depression is a light, one easily missed along the road in this once-powerful city. On quick glance, it looks like every other building from the outside. Then you ultimately stop in the vacant field that doubles as a parking lot and see the sign: “Welcome to Downtown BOXING GYM.”