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How to Shrink a City

In today's NYT, correspondent Susan Saulny explores one of the trickiest questions facing Detroit: How to Shrink a City?

Here's an excerpt:

“This is by far the biggest city that has faced this challenge in this country,” said Frank Popper, a professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers University. “Some of the thinking has been that Detroit would be the model.”

That hope has taken a hit.

“My sense is while there may be plans on the ground, the situation is so fluid that everybody's winging it,” Dr. Popper said. “I'm trying to follow it day to day, and I get the feeling of improvising all the way. But doing nothing is a prescription for dwindling away, if not dying.”

Read the full story here. And stay tuned.

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  • 1

    Any plan for "rightsizing" the city cannot work until the "bleeding" or loss of population is halted. Unfortunately, the city will continue to see the loss of taxpaying, middle-class residents including retirees until it takes steps to make the city a more affordable and attractive place to live for such people. The following are obstacles:

    1. Detroit's millage, 65.6, is 22.8 mills higher than the Wayne County community average of 22.8. Whatever gets taxed--housing in this case--you get less of.
    2. Homeowner's insurance is more expensive in the city.
    3. Auto insurance is more expensive if you live in the city.
    4. Middle class residents generally send their children to private, parochial, or charter schools, so educating your children is more expensive.
    5. There are higher expenditures for security, including doors, windows, and alarm systems.
    6. The income tax is a minor disincentive to those who both live and work in the city.

    Middle class residents have "voted with their feet" and continue to leave. The bleeding will not stop until the city and/or state government recognize and address all of the boring but chronic problems #1 through #6. Not much opportunity for posturing and media attention, and not much fun, but there it is. What chance do expensive, large scale plans for "rightsizing" have for achieving success if nothing is done to stop the bleeding? I'd say slim or none.

  • 2

    #1 Detroit needs an Architect Planner and a viable City Planning commission that constantly meets with creative Architects and Planners.

    That does not Exist at all.

    #2 DDD must be closely allied with the vital planning commission.

    #3 Dave Bing needs to learn the importance of a great Planning department headed by Architects and Planners who truly have abundant creative ideas

    #5 The effort by Cityscape Detroit to outline the various communities in the City needs to be carefully looked at and boundaries must be drawn carefully to make sure that each has it's clear identity.

    #6 Hideous destructive elements like the Incinerator need to be demolished.

    #7 The destructive remnants of "the Rouge" need to be cleaned up.

    #8 A great international competition for Housing needs to be generated. Close in to Downtown and radiate outward.

    #9 The Feds really screwed up the Brewster Highrises. They spent a lot of monies fixing them up with beautiful windows and all sorts of things then they abandoned the project and it looks like the GD scavengers stole the windows and nothing was done about that. They owe it to us to either fix them up again or demolish them and create a wider turn of I 75 because it generates a huge bottleneck for traffic flowing both north and south.

    #10 Someone has got to get to Bing to keep him from making absurd statements in public like the greatness of the new King High School. You cannot design a fine high school in one week with or without a program. So many crucial items for the King program were left out that this is a huge travesty. Far worse than the previous bond issue handling Dave needs someone trustworthy to trust. He ain't got that.

    Don't believe me... just wait and see.

    #11 Create a great golf course and fine residential projects right in these areas that must be abandoned. Detroit has been like an old tree with the core rotting out. You have to see this as an opportunity for great planning.

    #12 Preservation Wayne's yeoman efforts to generate interest in Detroit's Beautiful Architecture must be embraced and encouraged. Dr. Noren must see to it that the Mackenzie house is properly maintained within the guidelines of Historic Restoration and Preservation. No you do not pull the windows out, you repair them.

    #13 The Mies van der Rohe Histoic district Is constantly visited by European students and people from architectural schools around the country. It must be carefully looked at since it is considered to be the finest example of Urban Renewal in America. It's still great, going on 50 and looking far better than many of the new projects. Except for some mismanagement it remains great.

    #14 The riverfront is Getting better and better, don't stop at all. A concept for this was published by the Architectural School at the U of M almost 50 years ago.
    Planning unfortunately takes a lot of time but it must be done.

    #15 The Joe must be torn down to make way for the needed Cobo Expansion. Place it over by the Sports Belt above to the "necklace"

    #16 Continue to save historic buildings. The Book Building is an amazing example of early eclectic Sky scraper... Chateau in the sky!

    #17 Honor Francis Recendes and Gunn Levine for doing such fine architecture in designing the Thompson/Ross Schools. If they keep this up there will never be any need for EFM's and the DPS.

    #18 Encourage the Dream Cruise to come on home and circle around the John F. Kennedy Square. He wasn't such a bad President as Nolan Finley would have you think.

    #19 Place a turn off lane on the I-75 Rouge River Bridge... an awesome view of the City exists there.

    #20 Place some docks off the front of RenCen. If you live in the Pointes, you should be able to boat to work.

    #21 Complete Lafayette Park as near to it's initial design as possible. Detroit needs a beautifully handled, planted and manicured park.

    #22 Create that Sanitary landfill so the kids can learn to ski in the winter. You can't tell me that Bill Davidson lost money on his.

    #23 Expand that little gem, Chrysler School.

    #24 Get the University of Michigan to open up a Downtown Campus. Abandon the Dearborn one... the architecture is hideous and not representative of a fine institution... no sense of a beautiful future.

    #25.Boulevard E. Jefferson.

    #26 Give whoever the landscape Architectural firm that does the area across from RenCen more contracts, they do beautiful work.

    #26 Encourage greater diversity in the city. My wife used to say that mixed neighborhoods were always the best. What is that dynamic?

    #27 Dan Carmody is doing great things... encourage and help him.

    # 28 Figure out a way to make the State Fair viable again.

    # 29 Create a great automotive museum downtown and make it an Archival center for the study of Automotive history, patents, inventions, Swap center, and Hall of Fame.

    #30 Initiate a fund for Nolan to be sent to the peanut gallery of Rush Limbaugh where he can hug and kiss Carl Rove, Mitt Romney, and the Newt Gingrich and slime around with the other salamanders and yuck it up when Cox tells them what a wonderful time he had at the party. They can sing and laugh about the fools and be happily feted by John Rakolta and the monies that he gouged out of the recent Bond issue.

    #31 Give Rick Ruffner the former Tiger Stadium Site and let him do something wonderful with it.

    #32 Give Cathy Wendler all the support that she needs. She has done a great job with Mexicantown and the buildings need to be painted in distinctly Mexican Colors.

    #33 Don't give up and despair just because there are so many ugly houses along Lakeshore in Grosse Pointe. Bob Liggett has a good one with an authentic flavor because it is.

    • 2.1

      Where does one begin...Detroit was pivitable to high school I spent 2 weeks at the University of Detroit in the late 60's...have gone on to a 30 year career in business that took me all over the globe and then became a Peace Corps voiunteer @ Kenya and now am in Strategtic Marketing at a major university...but it breaks my heart to see this great city being turned into a "ruin"... I feel a need to "pay back" in some way to what this city gave to me when I was in my teens...

      Where does one begin if they are interested in contributing...willing to work for little pay...any Urban Peace Corps like programs where professionals can work for little pay to help revive the city?

  • 3

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