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What will Detroit be?

Over the weekend, I watched a 2013 Anthony Bourdain docu-show about Detroit. It was very interesting but one thing that he kept saying that bugged me was "This city is screwed." He even refered to it as a post-apocalyptic wasteland that with the exception of Chernobyl, is unlike any other City on the planet.

It got me thinking, is it?

They showed both the good and the bad of Detroit. They showed Brush Park, Downtown, NE side, the fire houses, Greektown, 8 mile, and the area around the old Tiger Stadium. He showed pop-up businesses, spoke with locals that have been involved in everything from real estate, to community activism, and even a gourmet chef that left the possibility of a phenominal career to return 'home' to Detroit and set up in the garage of an art gallery.

During the show, they attributed the decline to the political corruption that has plagued the City for 50 years and how good people can't make it in Detroit politics. They talked about how the citizens are setting fire to vacant abandoned homes because a burnt out house is better than a crack house. They talked about the red tape it took to open up community gardens, and of course, they talked about the urban decay that unfortunately has become the image of Detroit that we think of. By the end of the show, they indicated that it is more or less the shadow of a once great metropolis being occupied by bohemians who want to be different and poverty who can't escape, and that is all it will ever be.

Personally, I don't know. I think it will make a comeback, but I don't think it will be like it once was and I don't think it will, or can, follow the same rejuvenation models that other Cities like Chicago or New York used. Instead, I see it as an opportunity to do something unique. One thing that I can see happening is it becoming a post-industrial agrarian city where most of the city land is used for some type of farming. It could be crops, it could be aqua-farming, it could even be animals. I also see it being an epicenter for small businesses, micro-industrial innovation and manufacturing, utilizing some of the facilities have have been there for a century and utilizing flex spaces where different craftsman can learn from each other in a synergistic format.

But before the good things can start happening, one major important thing needs to happen. The culture needs to change. Politicians don't just become city leaders. Society has to put them into that position. A person does not just become Mayor, he or she needs to be elected. Once the criminal element is pushed out of the City and the good people fill in, then those who are voted into office will be there to help the City, and not their own selfish needs.

What are your thoughts on Detroit. Can it come back? If so, what does the future of Detroit look like?


We're talking a city that went from 1.8 million in the 50's to 700k today. Just looking at the last couple decades the city lost 300k population. Of course there's urban decay. I think the first thing for Detroit to do is figure out it's equilibrium population. You can't have a city infrastructure designed to support 1 million people when only a fraction of that lives there. The taxes would never support it. I'll avoid all the political stuff. Obviously that needs to be fixed, but it's easier when you're not funding a supersized infrastructure. From there they can start to design the city around a normal population number and do the fun things that might be possible. Close neighborhoods and streets where you can. Cut out some of the unnecessary water lines, etc. Easier said than done, I know. Somehow Detroit needs to consolidate the dead parcels of land and sell them off to developers, businesses, or whoever so that it can be renovated into something. I would just say bulldoze it and put up something new, but that's unimaginative and boring. If nothing else the consolidation of dead land makes it easier to cut more services and balance the budget a little.

I picture Detroit as pockets of good places, poverty stricken areas, and absolute blight areas. I would like to see the good places stay that way. Then start to clear the bad and turn it into something cool like a farm, a giant park, a nature preserve? It doesn't do much to boost the economy, but it makes Detroit a cool place while it starts to find a balance.

Last thing, I have no idea about the actual layout and real problems of Detroit so ignore everything I say.