All Articles Tagged "urban planning"
(New York Times) — When Marja M. Winters was studying urban planning in graduate school, she learned the art and science of helping cities grow. Now Ms. Winters, a native of Detroit and the deputy director of the city’s planning and development department, finds herself in an utterly unexpected role, one that no school would have thought to prepare her for: she is sorting out how to help her hometown shrink, by working through difficult decisions that will determine which neighborhoods can be saved and which cannot.
“It was always this notion that the population of the world continues to grow, and more and more people want to live in cities,” Ms. Winters, 33, said about her courses at the University of Michigan. “The reality is very different. Who knew?” Puzzling through the best way to downsize a city it is not unheard of (it has been considered in Youngstown, Ohio, and Flint, Mich. and even, decades ago, in New York). And Mayor Dave Bing has made it a priority to deal with Detroit’s fast-sinking population and crumbling infrastructure by steering those who remain into fewer neighborhoods, rather than leaving them scattered throughout the 139-square-mile city, whose boundaries made more sense when twice as many people lived here 40 years ago.
Actually carrying out such an effort, particularly in a city as vast as Detroit, is like solving a complicated set of interwoven puzzles, as Ms. Winters has discovered over many long days and some nights poring over thousands of pages of maps and statistics in her 23rd-floor downtown office. How to reconfigure roads, bus lines, police districts? How to encourage people — there is no power of eminent domain to force them — to move out of the worst neighborhoods and into better ones?
by Steven Barboza
Has Detroit reached its tipping point? Is the implosion of the American auto industry a kind of man-made Katrina for the Motor City? Or will Detroit rise up from its ash heap of urban devastation and round a corner as adroitly and smoothly as a newfangled gas-electric hybrid?
Whether this city, once our most prosperous manufacturing hub and the fourth largest city in the nation (now it’s the 11th), ultimately will make a comeback is anybody’s guess. But to borrow a phrase from Mark Twain: Reports of its death are an exaggeration.
Detroit is still headquarters of the nation’s auto industry, the largest single manufacturing and retail business in the country. City leaders just need a better roadmap.
“To put it bluntly, Detroit has to become relevant,” said Robin Doyle, an urban planning professor at Wayne State University. “Detroit is a major city within a major region that has lost its relevance because it lost its centrality. The city has to be made more attractive to visitors, to investment and development. That’s what the city is trying to do. It’s struggling, but it is trying to move in that direction.”
A major problem, as Boyle has pointed out, is that Detroit remains quintessentially a 20th century model of industry in a world that has marched into the 21st century. People aren’t buying Detroit products like they used to.
As a result, much of the city has become a mausoleum, with abandoned auto plants, burned-out homes and forlorn residents.
“There are many areas of Detroit that have maybe one, two or three households on a block,” Boyle said. “The houses themselves may be in reasonable condition, but the neighborhoods have disappeared.”
Detroit has fallen apart at its seams. The murder rate has soared. The unemployment rate skyrocketed to 28.9% at one point (today it is at 21%). The city can’t afford to provide services to many neighborhoods. And at one point, listings of tax foreclosures in Wayne County, which includes Detroit, went on for 137 pages in the Detroit Free Press. The school system is ailing with the state of Michigan approving the closure of half of the districts schools, leaving Detroit with only 72 public schools by 2014.
Residents want to pack up and leave – and they have. The city’s population has fallen from a high of more than 1.85 million in 1950 to 912,000 in 2008.
As the city shrank, so did property values. Residential units that went for $98,000 on average are now a steal at $12,400. And still, no one wants them, so an estimated 102,000 housing units stand vacant, nearly 28% of the city’s total.
Detroit’s once bright life has deteriorated so badly that a reporter who grew up there admitted that his first inclination upon returning was to weep.
(Model D) — Mitchell Silver’s name might not ring a bell to the average person, but in the world of urban planning he’s quite the rock star. He’s the director of the planning department in Raleigh, North Carolina, and president-elect of the American Planning Association. In his 25 years in the business, he’s been involved in in numerous notable projects, including a re-envisioning of Harlem’s riverfront and Jamaica Center in New York City as well as the revitalization of neighborhoods in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Silver was recently in Detroit for the Michigan Association of Planning conference that was held at the Renaissance Center October 20 to 23, and Model D had the chance to sit down with him at Starbucks for a little chat. We discussed the role of urban design in achieving social equity, national policies that can help aging industrial cities like Detroit, zoning and building codes, urban agriculture and the Detroit Works initiative among other topics.
(Chicago Sun Times0 — Mayor Daley wants to merge the departments of Community Development and Zoning to put economic development and neighborhood planning under one roof, but the consolidation doesn’t go far enough for the City Council’s most powerful alderman. Arguing that development in Chicago has ground to a halt, Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke (14th) said it’s time to outsource the jobs of scores of city planners who are sitting around with virtually nothing to do.
Separated by a river and woods from its wealthier neighbors, Oak Park and River Forest, it shares some of their charms: imposing, century-old homes and stately elms and maples draping the streets. But Maywood is decidedly more blue-collar than its neighbors, and its residents are predominantly African-American. Most of its homes are modest bungalows and frame houses that were built for factory workers whose jobs disappeared long ago. Many storefronts are vacant, and there appear to be more churches than viable businesses.
Detroit: The city that represents the prospects and failures of American industry.The city that is the punch line of a million jokes. The city that is Blacker than nearly any other in this country. Detroit is under intense scrutiny as of late and the flashing lights of attention may have served to take the life of seven year old Aiyana Jones as a TV crew filmed a home-raid by the Detroit SWAT.
With all the fascination with Detroit around the nation we get the problems of the city beamed into our homes via satellite, but it makes me wonder, is there more there than what we normally see? What responsibility do we bear to Detroit? And what opportunities are there for us to contribute?
Detroit is a microcosm of Black America. I believe if you cannot love Detroit, you cannot fully love Black people. The Detroit Metropolitan area represents the best and the worst that Black folks in this country have to offer. The Black middle class was solidified in and around Detroit with steady unionized blue collar labor in the auto industry.
The middle class expanded as more Black folks with college educations occupied managerial positions. Detroiters experienced and vigilantly fought the racisms of housing redlining, riots, as well as White and Black flight. Detroit has benefited and suffered at the hands of White and Black leadership. If there is a city that tells us about the promise and perils of Blackness, it’s Detroit. I’m so interested in what happens in Detroit because if we can turn it around, we can turn around the rest of our cities.
We will soon reach the one-year anniversary of Time Inc. buying a house and settling up a field office in Detroit to document the city. When Time dedicated dollars and staff to exploring the city, I felt both hope and concern.
As a representative of the news media, I knew that Time would have a huge audience, given that it owns over 100 media outlets. At the same time, I knew they would likely take a traditional perspective and try to document the “tragedy of Detroit.” You know, run stories about a crumbling governance structure, emotive pieces on poverty, and the city-suburb divide which has crippled collaboration and deepened racial tensions.
Along with those stories, however, are other stories. When I lived in Michigan, I hung out in Detroit and fell in love with the rich activism taking place. The strength of Detroiters and their voices are often missing from the reality shows and headlines. I often dream that the media would capture the voices of strength and struggle that fill Detroit. Maybe if they did that, Detroit would be the punch line of one less joke or serve as an example of how communities respond to tragedy with strategy.
For over a week, I’ve been reading stories and hearing about the loss of 7-year-old Aiyanna Jones’ life. She was killed as the Detroit SWAT used a no-knock warrant and a flash bomb, and a gun discharged as they searched for the murderer of 17-year-old Je’Rean Blake. The police were accompanied by a camera crew, so we could watch them “catch the bad guy.” Instead, they captured a reel full of reality that our communities are faced with all too often.
Detroit communities are addressing the consequences of poverty – like violence – and more importantly, the roots of poverty – like education. On the ground, Detroiters are fighting back by forming the vanguard that is rethinking education, the media, health and youth issues. During the close of June, Detroit will host the Allied Media Conference, the United States Social Forum and the National Hip Hop Congress Conference.
These gatherings center on re-visioning how we write, talk about and imagine our communities. All three of these gatherings will bring a groundswell of folks to Detroit to do more than watch decay; instead they will grapple with the perils of poverty and work through blueprints for changing Detroit and other communities from spectacles to spectacular loci.
It’s about time that we stop looking at Detroit and begin doing something with and for Detroit. As legendary Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs said, “you cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it.” It is time that we demand more of media, more of ourselves and help turn around the sullied gem of Black America.
R. L’Heureux Lewis is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Black Studies at the City College of New York – CUNY. His research concentrates on issues of educational inequality, the role of race in contemporary society, and mental health well-being.
DETROIT—Wrecking crews are preparing to tear down a landmark 5,000-square-foot house in the posh neighborhood of Palmer Woods in the coming weeks, a sign that Detroit is finally getting serious about razing thousands of vacant and abandoned structures across the city. In leveling 1860 Balmoral Drive, the boyhood home of one-time presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Detroit is losing a small piece of its history. But the project is part of a demolition effort that is just now gaining momentum and could help define the city’s future.