Let me state the obvious: The issue of how to shrink Detroit is gaining traction locally and more attention nationally. This is a topic that all of Michigan, Midwest and even the country needs to study closely in the months and years to come. Detroit is at a turning point; it cannot sit still any longer.
As more is coming out about plans to downsize the city, voices of the proponents and the opposition are coming to light. Are people going to get on board or fight this thing? To me, it is a foregone conclusion that Detroit must get smaller to get better. What has to happen to create a plan that works?
Sounds like Mayor Bing is going to talk about it in his State of the City address March 23. He updated the Associated Press today on what he could; read it here. MUCH MUCH more to come.
From the first Associated Press article:
"Things that were unthinkable are now becoming thinkable," said James W. Hughes, dean of the School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, who is among the urban experts watching the experiment with interest. "There is now a realization that past glories are never going to be recaptured. Some people probably don't accept that, but that is the reality."
The meaning of what is afoot is now settling in across the city.
"People are afraid," said Deborah L. Younger, past executive director of a group called Detroit Local Initiatives Support Corporation that is working to revitalize five areas of the city. "When you read that neighborhoods may no longer exist, that sends fear."
Though the will to downsize has arrived, the way to do it is unclear and fraught with problems.
Worth noting: This story had more than 1,000 comments, good and bad. That is a huge amount of interest for an article that was posted Monday (March 8).
A highlight of Bing's AP interview, printed March 9:
"It's a long road back," said Bing, who took office last year. "I don't want to raise expectations, false expectations. I want to be very straight with people. This is hard work and it's not going to happen overnight."
It's not known, Bing said, how much downsizing might cost or how much of the 139-square-mile city could be involved. He wants to make sure residents are a part of the long-term planning process and buy into the city's plan.
"We're not going in and just taking people's property and saying you don't have any say," Bing said. "Those people that we can encourage and that they would agree to be moved, those are the ones that we are going to work with first."
From The Detroit News on March 9:
The most viable neighborhoods, with the fewest vacant lots, are on the fringes, near the suburbs. The ones with the most abandoned houses and vacancies are closest to downtown.
"We have a downtown core and then we clearly have an outer ring," said Douglass Diggs, interim executive director of the recently formed Detroit Land Bank, a primary agency in the city's downsizing push. "The question is how do you link those two?
"Looking at the maps it seems like the real challenge is what to do with the middle part."