Posts Tagged ‘WARM Training Center’

Downsizing Detroit

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Photo by CDAD

Detroit’s been downsizing for the last 50 years. It’s not a question of whether to downsize or not, but a question of managing it or letting it continue happening organically.

The topic has been discussed and studied, especially during the past year, some of which we covered. Groups like Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD) and the WARM Training Center have been at the forefront.

After the election of Mayor Dave Bing, there didn’t seem to be much talk on this topic. The priority and focus were primarily on city finances.

That’s beginning to change.

The Mayor spoke about downsizing at a recent Community Development Conference. This will receive more attention beginning in 2010.

From CDAD:
“We don’t have the luxury of targeting specific areas within our city, Bing told the crowd. There’s been a lot of effort given to those who have the least-but everybody is hurting. Good neighborhoods are slipping-and they need help too.” Bing noted that Detroit is currently using about 50% of its 139 square miles, and stated that within six to twelve months, Detroit will have a long-term land-use plan for the city of Detroit.

Mayor Bing stated that the development and execution of a long-term plan for the city will require community involvement. “We must be open to the community-be very inclusive and get help with our priorities,” Bing stated.

Also included in the conference were round table discussions on various topics related to the reshaping of Detroit. In my role as MTGA Detroit Greenways Coordinator, I led discussions on non-motorized transportation and greenways.

Can Detroit be Saved?

Mayor Bing also reiterated similar comments in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Bing is brimming with other ideas to make Detroit more livable. One challenge he faces is how to successfully downsize. “We have a city that still has a footprint from when we had almost two million people. In the 2010 census, we’ll be lucky if we’ve got half of that population with the same footprint and infrastructure.”

He wants to tear down buildings and dilapidated homes and convert thousands of acres to “parks and greenspace.” He also wants to privatize public services to save money and create a new cosmopolitan environment that will attract middle-class and affluent families that have fled to the suburbs.

As noted at the CDAD conference, greening the city’s abandonments and brownfields would give Detroit one of the highest ratios of greenspace-to-residents among large U.S. cities.

Not just Bing

This summer, then city council candidate Charles Pugh asked us what role greenways can play in the downsizing of Detroit.

Now as council president, Pugh addressed CDAD members on downsizing.

“The city of Detroit needs a clearer vision as to where we’re going in our city. We need to pack in and create more density where there is density, and decide what happens with the areas where there is lower density. We have to put out a vision for how we are going to reshape this city.”

This is exciting to hear as downsizing is not politically popular. You don’t have ribbon cutting ceremonies for closing things down and letting areas revert to more natural states.

Still, we would certainly welcome ribbon cuttings for more greenspace and trails.