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Embracing a Smaller City

I'm eagerly awaiting my copy of veteran Detroit Free Press reporter John Gallagher's new book, "Reimagining Detroit: Opportunities for Redefining an American City," which comes out of the Wayne State University press in October. I'm already intrigued with what this long-time architecture aficionado and all-around good journalist has to say about what the city needs to seed a true turnaround.

Sunday's Freep gave a preview of Gallagher's thoughts...I'm most interested in what he had to say about embracing a smaller city. He's seemingly not interested in bringing Detroit around just yet in terms of boosting population. Rather, he is suggesting we embrace the city's smaller size and fix its problems with the "best in class" solutions out there. By letting the city rework itself while in this de-populated state, we can improve this old dog and teach it 21st century tricks. Indeed. A highlight:

Let's start by acknowledging that when we shun the idea of a smaller city, we hinder our ability to capitalize on the advantages of being smaller. … That vacant lot that we were holding for some hoped-for development? Now maybe we can turn it into a community garden to help feed the neighborhood. That eight- or ten-lane thoroughfare that no longer carries the volume of traffic for which it was designed? Now we can put it on a road diet, reducing automotive lanes by creating bicycle lanes, widening sidewalks, and running a transit line up the middle. The streams and wetlands buried generations ago to provide sewers for a growing city? Now we can rediscover these natural treasures, restoring the ecology to create a greener environment that's cooler in summer and healthier year-round.

Your thoughts, please?

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