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Thread: Detroit: Then, Now, The Future

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    Detroit: Then, Now, The Future

    This Bear was surprised that there are no definitive threads about Detroit (unless my searches missed one). As planners (most of the urban variety) the Motor City is the ultimate textbook case of what can go right and what can go wrong in a large urban place.

    To get the thread going, I have attached the first of a year-long series of articles from Time magazine. A good read. I would be interested in hearing the opinions of those who know the city well, regarding this first zine installment.

    Linky:
    http://www.time.com/time/nation/arti...wsletter-daily

    Bear
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  2. #2
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I don't know what to think about this. TIME bought a mansion for $100,000. Yes, a mansion and is keeping a staff there for an undetermined amount of time to write about Detroit. I appreciate some of the exposure and a lot of our story needs to get out, but at the same time I don't want it to be another dump on Detroit thing that will be used against us.

    I am still smarting from last year when our industries were nearly dead and it seemed that everyone used it to rip us a new one without taking a look at the whole picture. By that time, most new UAW worker were being hired at a wage more modest than most of the transplant factories, and we were already dealing with having not only all of this uneeded infrastructure, but legacy costs.

    SI is also in the house. I am pretty sure that all of this got rolling after a series of articles by Mitch Albom that was published in SI.

    So far the staff has been visited by Kid Rock who brought them some kegs of beer and a big Olde English D, and Dave Bing, our new mayor and former NBA player turned industrialist.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  3. #3
    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    I am still smarting from last year when our industries were nearly dead and it seemed that everyone used it to rip us a new one without taking a look at the whole picture. By that time, most new UAW worker were being hired at a wage more modest than most of the transplant factories, and we were already dealing with having not only all of this uneeded infrastructure, but legacy costs.
    DP, I feel your pain. My first and last wives both grew up in the "real" Detroit south of McNichols (Six Mile), one on the west side and the other on the east side. Both neighborhoods look like war zones now but were decent working class neighborhoods up into the '70s. Trying to think of ways to renew Detroit from where it is now just makes my head hurt. Too much area, too many streets, too much sewer and water capacity, too many social problems, too little employment, too many political issues.
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    Many similarities between Detroit and Toledo, but The Glass City has not been hit nearly as hard as The Motor City. Not much "white flight" in Toledo.....inncer-city folks simply moved to the many suburb-like tracts that remained within the corporate limits of Toledo. My family did, although it wasn't racial....but knowing my Dad......it would have been racial if we had remained in our central city home well past 1954.

    This Bear spent a lot of time in Detroit. Of course, a girl was involved. She moved from Toledo to Birmingham. After a couple years in that more-afluent Detroit middle-ring suburb she moved to the NW portion of Detroit, near Fenkell. If these old brain cells are correct, she lived on Gilchrist. Gawd, that was nearly 45 years ago.

    I wonder what her neighborhood looks like now.

    Bear
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Bear Up North View post
    ... NW portion of Detroit, near Fenkell. If these old brain cells are correct, she lived on Gilchrist. Gawd, that was nearly 45 years ago.

    I wonder what her neighborhood looks like now.
    Streetview it.

    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&sour...352.75,,0,4.95

    Great piece in TIME, thanks for the link. Growing up in the metro (west side, Farmington & 12 Mile, then Lahser in Beverly Hills 48025) is why I chose this profession...and my present hometown.

    Detroit fell victim not to one malign actor but to a whole cast of them. For more than two decades, the insensate auto companies and their union partners and the elected officials who served at their pleasure continued to gun their engines while foreign competitors siphoned away their market share.
    Last edited by Veloise; 29 Sep 2009 at 7:04 AM.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Hey the street I live on is a couple of Blocks W of there! Though I live a few miles S of Fenkell. The area Bear speaks of is known as Grandmont and is still considered to be a nicer area with not too many burned out buildings and the homes are well kept and tidy. I live in Warrendale, which is surrounded on 3 sides by Dearborn (not too far from the Henry Ford Museum).

    Over the last few years the area has experienced some commercial change-over and is now dominated by fast food restraunts. This area used to have a wide range of commercial uses including the bar I got drunk in on my 21st birthday.

    To the W about a mile nd a half or more you begin to hit Brightmoor. Brightmoor is one of the emptyed out areas, and easily the worst on the West-side, though there are areas on the East and in SW Detroit that give it a run for the money.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  7. #7
    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    Here's another thought provoking article on Detroit. I haven't had time to read it completely and it's nearly a year old so it's pre-bailout but there are a lot of good discussion points and proposals in it.

    http://theurbanophile.blogspot.com/2...-collapse.html
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

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    I'm a little wary of all the attention Detroit gets right now, too. It's like those relatives who visit a family member on life support in the hospital for the last time before the doctors pull the plug. Where exactly were those relatives when Uncle Detroit's health declined over the last 40+ years?

    For DetroitPlanner and others familiar with the D, I grew up on the Northwest Side near Seven Mile and Schaefer, but I moved away 25+ years ago. I get back maybe once a year to visit family. It seems my old neighborhood has weathered the decline fairly well; it was a solidly black middle class area when I was growing up.

    I remember once thinking that Detroit's population would have to bottom out at around 500K-600K before it began a real turnaround. The thinking went that the city would price itself back into growth, with so much cheap vacant land. Now, I'm not certain that would even do it.

  9. #9
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by pete-rock View post
    Where exactly were those relatives when Uncle Detroit's health declined over the last 40+ years?
    They've been there. Look at all the coverage Detroit got in the media as the poster child for urban decline in the United States since the 1960s. Here's a Time Magazine article from 1961.

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/ar...873465,00.html

    If ever a city stood as a symbol of the dynamic U.S. economy, it was Detroit. It was not pretty. It was, in fact, a combination of the grey and the garish: its downtown area was a warren of dingy, twisting streets; the used-car lots along Livernois Avenue raised an aurora of neon. But Detroit cared less about how it looked than about what it did—and it did plenty. In two world wars, it served as an arsenal of democracy. In the auto boom after World War II. Detroit put the U.S. on wheels as it had never been before. Prosperity seemed bound to go on forever—but it didn't, and Detroit is now in trouble.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Just like any big project, things had to get really bad before they could get better. A couple of positive signs from this vista:

    --Land bank authority is hiring an interim executive director, job ad here: http://planningmi.org/resources4055682.asp

    --City clowncil is doing major housecleaning. Two of the worst: former Motown artist won't be re-elected, and the loose cannon ("Shrek!") had to resign.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    They've been there. Look at all the coverage Detroit got in the media as the poster child for urban decline in the United States since the 1960s. Here's a Time Magazine article from 1961.
    I'd have to agree with Pete on this one Dan. I think what has changed in the last year is that much more of the USA is venerable to economic decline the way Detroit has been for the last 40 years. Prior to last year it was easy to say "those people in Detroit made their own $h!t, let them sleep in it if they don't want to clean it up".

    There has been awakinging that Detroit is sadly just the canary in the coalmine and that Detroit while it seems that Detroit has caused some of these problems, the real problems are beyond the control of its people, the real problems lie in failed policies, neglect, and having a situation where escalating issues create larger budgetary problems. These budgetary problems feed into the corruption, and make it tougher for the City to keep it policing up to a national standard. As Veloise mentioned, there has been an awakinging that has needed to happen. Unfortunately the electorate is not the most savvy here and can be easily duped (and thats as far as I'm going).

    This has lead to more national press in the last year than we have ever seen. The good parts of our story are finally getting out, but unfortunately these are being masked by what the media has dubbed (I just heard this one yesterday) "Detroit's ruin porn", meaning a strange fascination with the emptieness of certain areas. My only hope is that people can see beyond the porn and see that yes Detroit has had it bad for a long time, yet it still fights for survival.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Unfortunately the electorate is not the most savvy here and can be easily duped (and thats as far as I'm going).
    I wholeheartedly agree. In fact -- and maybe I can say this because I'm African-American and a Detroit native -- but I think a large chunk of Detroit's decline can be blamed on one Coleman Young.

    Looking back, I think Detroit is still paying for the poor decisions made in the '70s and '80s by an administration that was intent on "screwing the Man" than on improving the city. That kind of leadership made it easier for the middle class, black and white, to get out of dodge, and the decline of the auto industry made it even worse. I still don't think that Detroit suburbanites, or other Michigan residents, or even the nation, are yet willing to forgive, forget and help the city move on.

    Detroit is not the only sufferer of this. Think of all the cities that elected black mayors at the end of the Civil Rights Movement and the beginning of the Black Power Movement -- Detroit, Cleveland, Newark, Gary come to mind. What do they all have in common? A new black mayor elected in the volatile early '70s proclaiming "it's our time now," and a white middle class that saw that as a message of retribution and used it to get out of town.

    Please don't mistake my post for being a rant on race. I've just recently started posting here again after a long time away, and the last thing I want is to get banned. My point is that there needs to be some real human healing in Detroit, because the roots of its decline are human first, and economic second.

    The poor economy accelerates Detroit's decline, but I think Detroit's fall is more social, even spiritual.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by pete-rock View post
    ... I think a large chunk of Detroit's decline can be blamed on one Coleman Young....
    TIME makes that point as well.

    When CYJr was running for mayor, I had to laugh.

  14. #14
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by pete-rock View post
    Please don't mistake my post for being a rant on race. I've just recently started posting here again after a long time away, and the last thing I want is to get banned. My point is that there needs to be some real human healing in Detroit, because the roots of its decline are human first, and economic second.
    I think it's a really interesting perspective that I haven't thought about before. I've noticed that in the post-Civil Rights era, where there's a black mayor in a city that has a white majority (Wellington Webb in Denver, Byron Brown in Buffalo), race was never as front-and-center as it was with the black mayors of the 1970s and 1980s. The mayor's race tends to be of little relevance during the campaign, and plays little or no role in the administration. Pundits will claim that identity politics play a strong role in the election (blacks voting for their own, regardless of the candidate's qualifications or platform), but in older Rust Belt cities, identity politics were always part of the political scene
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  15. #15
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    The police in Detroit are now ignoring traffic laws.

    Faced with dwindling resources, overcrowded prisons and much more significant crimes, Detroit police are now ignoring traffic infractions. Below, ABC News describes an incident where Detroit's police chief let someone driving without a license go with merely a warning.

    He certainly is a legitimate arrest," said Detroit police chief Warren Evans of that license-less driver. "But is it worth being out of service for an hour and a half in an area where the priority runs could be significant in that hour and a half?"
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    FWIW, Warren Evans is the former Wayne County sheriff. He was one of the mayoral candidates. Long-time D tradition: new mayor replaces the top cop.

    Dave Bing (who is not collecting a salary) appointed Evans, who is going out on patrols and raids. He's administering the department, but he's not merely sitting in the office. The Freep tagged along, and reported that citizens recognized Evans and responded favorably.

    (off in-house memory; Freep archives co$t)

  17. #17
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Ha the coppers will never take me alive!

    Actually there are special units of the Detroit Police that do traffic enforcement. These police will write you a ticket. Other police will pull you over if they see you do something incredibly stupid or wreckless. Detroit cops are not the only police force in town, we still have state, county, and university police that have the power to write tickets.

    The whole premise of this article is wrong. If the police need to get somewhere for a pressing issue (murder, robbery, sale on donuts) they will not be looking for speeders. What makes this tough is you never know which cops are writing tickets and which ones do not, therefore I would not push your luck.

    When I read this, I immediately got a different picture in my head. Growing up, a friend of mine's father was a Police Chief under Mayor Young. This guy would drive like Axel Foley in Beverly Hills cop, blowing through red lights, slamming on brakes, gunning the engine down side streets. In short this guy ignored all traffic laws because no one was going to write him a ticket. I only got a ride from him once, that was enough.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Pundits will claim that identity politics play a strong role in the election (blacks voting for their own, regardless of the candidate's qualifications or platform), but in older Rust Belt cities, identity politics were always part of the political scene
    Yes, identity politics has been the norm in older Rust Belt cities for 150 years. More specifically, ethnic politics. The ethnic transitions that took place were raucous but relatively tame compared to what happened during the Black Power days of the early '70s. In most cases, the political transition went from WASP --> Irish --> Eastern/Southern European --> African-American. While the preceding group may have had issues with the group that followed, a partnership usually formed and the latter group gained some acceptance and inclusion -- up until the early '70s Black Power period.

    Those cities that were able to elect a black mayor at that time - IMO - scored a Pyrrhic victory, because the ethnic transition pattern came to a stop once they were elected. The early '70s new black leadership was not in a mood to be conciliatory with the group they replaced politically -- they were fresh off their successes in the Civil Rights Movement. But there was no emerging group that was putting pressure on them to moderate or mature their stances (substantial Hispanic immigration was decades away from happening in the Rust Belt, if at all).

    The Detroit I remember as a kid in the early '70s fits this description to a T. I remember the tension that seemed to exist everywhere. There were battles over the STRESS special police unit and the allegations of brutality. There were battles over busing. There were battles over redlining. All this, just six years after the '67 riots.

    I remember the mayoral campaign in 1973 (I was 9 at the time). It was between Coleman Young and John Nichols, a black union activist and a white police chief. What made it memorable for me was that John Nichols' son was a teacher at my all-black elementary school at the time, and he tried to hide his ties to his father as long as he could. Once his secret was out, it was very tense.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Here's a website I came across on Twitter this morning:

    http://www.100abandonedhouses.com/

    Shows some of the great architecture and style of these buildings that now sit abandoned and mostly derelict in and around Detroit. Very sad indeed.
    @GigCityPlanner

  20. #20
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    People will see what they want to see. Some folks see the abandonment, others see the beauty and potential.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3z0A7BHlr0
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Interesting article in yesterday's Detroit Free Press: Saving the most salvageable neighborhoods. From the article:

    Detroiters and their elected leaders also must begin planning now for a radically smaller city, whose population may officially fall to 750,000 in the next census. "The city's master plan has always been out of touch with reality," said John Mogk, a Wayne State University law professor and urban planning expert. "The 2010 census will bring shock and awe."
    Basically, in the past 50 years, the City of Detroit lost the equivalent of the population of the states of Montana or Delaware.

    And one that aims at the heart of perservationists: ... And ridding the city of its major symbols of decay From the article:

    For symbolic reasons alone, the city must rehabilitate or raze the Packard Plant and Michigan Central Station. They're not nearly as corrosive as the 78,000 vacant buildings that blight Detroit's neighborhoods, but they have come to represent and define our city. They're the first stop for out-of-town journalists trying to get a whiff of Motown's rusted gears, and poster shots for documentaries such as History Channel's "Life After People." Detroit's inability to redevelop these two imposing sites reflects its inability to control its image and destiny.
    Poor Albert Kahn.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  22. #22
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    There are plenty of empty auto factories sitting around. I am not sure what the fascination is with the Packard, though it was considered a luxury car. Many of Kahn's other factories, and even his sky scrapers and homes are still doing quite well.


    The train station is not a local design. If I am not mistaken it was designed by a firm that designed stations for New York. It is currently under private ownership and has a long complicated history.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  23. #23
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    http://www.100abandonedhouses.com/
    Several of those houses are on a street that is sporting new concrete pavement, sidewalks, and light standards...a high-end street renovation as I see it. It makes you wonder why they bothered with that street at all. Will it just be an access road for woodlots or truck-farming operations in the future? What is the significance of that street?
    It also looks like the city must have quite a bill just for mowing all the grass on the vacant lots and around those properties. Adds to the argument for abandoning streets so that lots can be consolidated and the mowing done with larger tractors, maybe even giving the land future use as farmland.

    I hate to see the decline of Detroit as much as anybody on here, but maybe they should look into interim uses for all that land. At least if it is planted as hardwood forest it would have some commercial value down the road and would be sequestering carbon while growing.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  24. #24
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    BP the common theme for those homes are they are all located in brush park.

    Not every home has streets or sidewalks that are in good condition. Brush Park is seeing a lot of Development and is close to Ford Field and Comerica Park.

    Here are some links, if you look closely you might be able to see that some of those homes are across from restored or new housing.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Br...ong_John_R.JPG
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brush_P...toric_District
    http://www.travelandtransitions.com/...brush_park.htm
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  25. #25
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    Wow...lots of really great buildings in Brush Park. Nice to see that many have been restored. You never see those on the "ruin pron" sites. I suppose ultimately it doesn't help Detroit's cause to have so many ruined building photos plastered across the internet when they are trying to attract new development. The "that's such a shame" crowd tends to not have the funds for investment.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

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