October 8, 2010 8:59 PM   Subscribe

Tell me about Detroit real estate and urban policy today. How are they dealing with the damage, even collapse/abandonment of neighborhoods? For someone interested in the city, and specifically these distressed areas, how is the City managing them? Creative Zoning? Homesteading? What are the opportunities for an individual? Business needs? How much of the land itself is damaged from past industrial use? Are there programs for (brownfield) rehabilitation?
posted by ebesan to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Some of those areas are being cleared, with the apparent intention of returning them to farmland.

Your question suggests a serious misapprehension about the situation. Detroit doesn't have a lot of money, and it isn't really managing them because it cannot.

As to "opportunities for an individual", I would suggest that the reason those areas are now abandoned is that they aren't opportunities for anyone.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:03 PM on October 8, 2010

As I understand from a few TV specials and the interwebs, they are literally planning on bulldozing much of the city and constricting it's borders greatly.
posted by sanka at 9:24 PM on October 8, 2010

You might be interested in the local npr coverage of the 40 year anniversary of the detroit race riots, Ashes of Hope and a story from this week about a group of artists who purchased an abandoned building and are turning it into a live/work space for artists.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 9:33 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I swear I found out about this documentary here on metafilter. It's really good and answers a lot of your questions. The gist is that there are people taking back the land and using it for farming, and there is a growing/thriving DIY culture.
posted by smartypantz at 9:45 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: There is day-to-day managing, (has the city done nothing in response?)
; and there are ideas as opportunities; or at least a beginning, a discussion.
The American Institute of Architects produced a study that called for Detroit to shrink back to its urban core and a selection of urban villages, surrounded by greenbelts.
There is the Vacant Property Campaign
What else has been suggested? Is anyone else is speaking to the problems?
posted by ebesan at 10:06 PM on October 8, 2010

posted by John Cohen at 10:12 PM on October 8, 2010

Real estate interests and government urban policy in Detroit today are doing very little about the problems of the city. The current mayor admits that he hasn't had time to consider planning because of the tremendous financial woes of the city, which is basically constantly on the brink of bankrputcy for a variety of reasons. This is a huge reason why there is no managing of the vacant areas. They just continue to be vacant. There is a huge structure demolition list but only so much money to pay for demolition. What little urban planning is in effect currently is a glorified beautification effort (NextDetroit) that is a holdover from the last Mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick.

The new mayor, Dave Bing, has launched a citywide planning campaign, calling itself the Detroit Works Project. It seems loosely based on a similar Youngstown campaign in 2005. DWP has held six meetings citywide that received lots of attendance but little in the way of ideas or a coherent plan. Forty more neighborhood-based smaller meetings are being held starting in November.

Mayor Bing insists that he does not have a plan to shrink or downsize the city of Detroit, even though that is what the AIA plan (Leaner Greener Detroit) recommended. This is probably because of the historically terrible relationship between planning and Detroit citizens. I myself am not sure what to believe. A group of local foundations are paying for this entire process and the lead planner is Toni Griffin.

The real "planning" being done now is on a smaller level. Although it's nowhere near a large amount of the available land in the city, individuals and small organizations are able to do a lot for a cheap amount. There are lots of examples.

Other answers to your questions: Business needs? How much of the land itself is damaged from past industrial use? Are there programs for (brownfield) rehabilitation?

Business needs, there is very little retail in the city if that's what you're talking about. If you have a business that requires a lot of space near a metro area, there are lots of buildings sitting around. Lots of those larger buildings (mostly concentrated around some old rail lines) probably are contaminated in some way. There are brownfield credits, I think those are federal and state.
posted by ofthestrait at 11:05 PM on October 8, 2010

One reason that the city government isn't doing a lot is a breathtaking level of incompetence and corruption.

Kwame Kilpatrick, former mayor mentioned above, is doing one-to-five at the Oaks Correctional Facility, a Michigan state prison.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:39 PM on October 8, 2010

I thought for sure I'd gotten this from Metafilter, but if so I can't find it now. David Byrne's thoughts on Detroit, planning, decay, and reuse.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:50 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's a lot happening in Detroit now despite enormous systemic problems. Roughly one third of the city is vacant - much of that has been razed and there are a number of groups starting urban farming. These groups range from small community activist approaches - think lots of little producers to one company looking into much bigger industrial agriculture. There is plenty of controversy about the latter. Wayne State University has a number of projects going on regarding urban farming, getting fresh produce into neighborhoods without any access other than little corner stores and the like.

There is certainly plenty of damage from industrial use and from random dumping but lots of Detroit is beautiful - it's a city with a lot of really beautiful architecture despite all the problems. Another good blog with lots of photos is Sweet Juniper, written by a guy who moved into the city and spends a lot of time photographing it. Another good source of information is Time magazine's Detroit blog - a yearlong project with multiple writers covering the city.

There is a significant wave of companies moving back into Detroit - Quicken Loans was the latest. Dan Gilbert, Quicken Loans CEO spoke at Tedx Detroit and talked about other companies he knows also being in the midst of moving their headquarters back into downtown or the Wayne State area.

There are so many abandoned properties for sale that the Wayne County Land Bank has moved its auctions online - two weeks ago there were 13,000 parcels listed.

The state of Michigan has a page listing Brownfield programs here.

Lots of artists moving into the city - cheap real estate being a huge draw. This is happening both with people buying individual houses and moving into bigger spaces. One project involves artists setting up micro neighborhoods as art projects while buying real estate which they're converting into an art space and a home. On a MUCH larger scale, the Russell Industrial Center is a complex of over 1 million square feet which has over 125 tenants doing everything from painting, fashion design, music production to more industrial uses. Other arts projects of note include the CAID's collaboration with Southwest Solutions to renovate the Whitdel Apartments - a mix of housing aimed at artists, art center, and gallery. Article here about the Whitdel and a bunch of other projects.

I could go on at far more length. The city itself is limited in what it can do but there are an enormous number of groups and individuals doing all sorts of innovative projects in Detroit. I don't live in Detroit myself but less than an hour away and am in the city frequently. I've lived in the area for 30 years and for the first time am really convinced that Detroit is turning around - the recession has made some things possible that were previously unthinkable and having the absolute bottom drop out turns out to have some positive aspects in the midst of enormous disaster.
posted by leslies at 5:14 AM on October 9, 2010 [7 favorites]

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