Monday, April 21, 2008

Should Detroit downsize?

Last week wrote about Youngstown, Ohio's plans to shrink the city to make city services more cost effective:

Now, in a radical move, the city - which has suffered since the steel industry left town and jobs dried up - is bulldozing abandoned buildings, tearing up blighted streets and converting entire blocks into open green spaces. More than 1,000 structures have been demolished so far.

Under the initiative, dubbed Plan 2010, city officials are also monitoring thinly-populated blocks. When only one or two occupied homes remain, the city offers incentives - up to $50,000 in grants - for those home owners to move, so that the entire area can be razed. The city will save by cutting back on services like garbage pick-ups and street lighting in deserted areas.

In Sunday's Free Press, columnist Stephen Henderson said Detroit should do the same. He even suggests that community development groups should stop constructing new low-income housing, quoting a Wayne State professor:
"In the sparsely populated areas, we shouldn't be cheering groups that build 50 units of new housing," he said. "That's aggravating the situation. You've got to move people around, and build in denser areas to allow the city to operate more efficiently and effectively."


the motorless city said...

Wow, interesting. I've been advocating that for several years. It's always been obvious that Detroit is far too large for the number of citizens. It's infrastructure is too large for it's tax base. I've been saying Detroit needs to do a reverse annexation. My wife thinks they need to create large green spaces. Either way, something needs to change.

Cooper said...

I don't think the city can feasibly reduce its boundaries. Much of its residential tax base lies on its perimeter (i.e., Palmer Woods), and no other neighboring city has any interest in annexing one of the areas in decline.

Its only option for "downsizing" would be to replicate Youngstown and block off areas that have been substantially abandoned. But to my knowledge, that means parts of the lower East Side and the Van Dyke corridor, which geographically are fairly close to the city's center and should conceivably have a stake in a smaller, revitalized city. But maybe that stake ought to be primarily parks and urban gardens. The city has to save money somewhere.