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  • Christopher Miller
    Live by the ---, die by the ---. http://www.themotorlesscity.com/ DenverInfill Blog: Lessons from Detroit
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2009
      Live by the ---, die by the ---.


      DenverInfill Blog: Lessons from Detroit


      Saturday, December 27, 2008 Lessons from Detroit
      I've just returned from a week of visiting family out of town, and one
      of those trips took me to Michigan, where I once again had the
      opportunity to drive through Detroit.

      In the 1950 census, the city of Detroit's population peaked at
      1,849,568. In 2000, the city's population was 951,270, and SEMCOG,
      metro Detroit's equivalent to Denver's DRCOG, estimates Detroit's 2008
      population at 860,521. Physically, what happens to a city when it
      loses half its population in 50 years? The answer is visible from
      driving along Interstate 94 as it cuts through the heart of the city,
      where one can see hundreds of vacant or burned-out buildings
      overlooking the sunken freeway. But to really appreciate the degree to
      which many of central Detroit's neighborhoods have been abandoned,
      explore the city using GoogleEarth. First, find Downtown Detroit along
      the Detroit River, then venture northwest, north, and northeast from
      there, and you will be shocked at what you see:

      (pictures at URL above)

      Talk about infill opportunities! These images represent just a few
      examples of the extent of urban abandonment in Detroit. It's surreal
      to see block after block of a city grid with virtually no homes or
      buildings lining the streets. Between 1970 and 2000, over 161,000
      homes and buildings were demolished in the city of Detroit, with
      thousands more razed every year. Nature is reclaiming many of these
      empty blocks, with native grasses and trees thriving and turning these
      once-dense inner-city neighborhoods back into greenfields. One Detroit
      city councilperson even suggested that the city should relocate any
      remaining residents from these abandoned neighborhoods, fence the
      areas off, and let them transform into nature preserves.

      To give you an idea of the expanse of these empty inner-city Detroit
      neighborhoods, here are three aerial images from Denver taken at the
      same scale (eye altitude). From left to right: the West Highlands
      neighborhood centered on 32nd & Lowell, the West Washington Park
      neighborhood, and Capitol Hill west of Cheesman Park. Can you imagine
      these Denver neighborhoods being virtually empty of buildings or people?

      (pictures at URL above)

      For an in-depth look at Detroit's sad situation, check out this
      article, Disappeared Detroit, from Lost magazine.

      (Link: LOST Magazine - Disappeared Detroit

      My purpose in discussing Detroit is not to compare that city to
      Denver, but to emphasize, using Detroit as an example, the importance
      in being vigilant in maintaining the vitality and quality of our urban
      core. I'm sure no one in Detroit in the early 20th century during the
      peak of that city's wealth and prominence could have believed that
      Detroit could decline in a free-fall so far, so fast. Such is the case
      in Denver today, as we mostly dodged the bullet of severe urban decay
      that struck so many other cities in the 1970s and 1980s and now find
      ourselves twenty years into an era of great revitalization and
      investment in our urban center. We cannot rest on our laurels and
      assume that Denver will forever remain the thriving heart of a
      sprawling metropolis. Every day, we must work hard to make sure that
      what happened to Detroit never happens to Denver. That is one of the
      reasons why I created DenverInfill.

      We are blessed here in Denver to have such a solid fabric of stable,
      historic urban neighborhoods: Capitol Hill, Highlands, Sloans Lake,
      Washington Park, Park Hill, Berkeley, Baker, Hilltop, Bonnie Brae,
      Cherry Creek... just to name a few. Can you imagine Denver without
      them? I hope everyone reading this finds some way to help keep Denver
      the vibrant, beautiful city that it is.

      Posted by Ken @ Saturday, December 27, 2008


      Lead poisoning maps for Detroit and other US cities and a discussion
      of the problem:

      Another blog reproduces a now "Error 404" article from the Detroit
      Free Press on suggestions about what to do with the city's vast swaths
      of abandoned land:
      Acres of barren blocks offer chance to reinvent Detroit


      Acres of barren blocks offer chance to reinvent Detroit
      Linked by Michael Levenston


      The map above by Dan Pitera, a professor of architecture at University
      of Detroit Mercy. About 30% of Detroit is now vacant land � about 40
      square miles, by one estimate � as the city�s population has shrunk
      from a peak of 2 million in the early 1950s to 900,000 today.
      Abandoned houses dot empty lots that were once blocks of homes and
      businesses. Farms, forests, hobby gardens and recreation areas are
      some suggestions urban planners are considering for using the space.

      By John Gallagher
      Detroit Free Press
      December 15, 2008

      Detroit�s thinning population is vividly - some would say disturbingly
      - illustrated in a new map that is creating a buzz in local planning

      The map shows how to tuck the land mass of Manhattan (23 square
      miles), San Francisco (47 square miles) and Boston (48 square miles) �
      and their combined populations of nearly 3 million people � into
      Detroit. All three urban areas fit snugly within Detroit�s 139 square
      miles with room to spare.

      Detroit, where the population peaked at 2 million in the early 1950s,
      is home to about 900,000 today and is still losing people. The
      depopulation and demolition of abandoned properties has left the city
      dotted with thousands of vacant parcels, ranging from single home lots
      to open fields of many acres.

      The map is the handiwork of Dan Pitera, a professor of architecture at
      University of Detroit Mercy. He says he created it as a simple and
      dramatic illustration of how underpopulated Detroit has become.
      To see for yourself: Use Google Earth or a similar computer program to
      fly over the city and see how many vacant parcels you can find. Pitera
      estimates that all that empty land adds up to about 40 square miles �
      nearly the land mass of San Francisco.

      His conclusion: Hopes and plans to repopulate the city and to
      redevelop all the city�s vacant land, are unrealistic, at least for
      another generation. Some redevelopment deals will succeed, but
      realistic Detroiters should seize the opportunity to become a leaner,
      greener city for the 21st Century.

      �What if a lot of the vacant land was allowed to begin to become
      green?� Pitera said. �Could Detroit truly become the greenest city in
      the United States?�

      This abundance of vacant land has people talking about new uses, such
      as urban farming, reforesting the city, and large-scale recreational
      areas. Urban farming is getting the most buzz. Michigan State
      University�s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is among the
      groups touting urban farms as a solution for Detroit�s vacant land.

      �Given the amount of open land, I think there�s a real opportunity for
      Detroit to provide a significant amount of its fruits and vegetables
      for its population and the surrounding area,� said Mike Hamm, the C.S.
      Mott Chair of Sustainable Agriculture at MSU.

      Besides providing nutritional value for Detroiters, Hamm said, �I
      think it can help create jobs and some small businesses in the city,
      with the potential for spin-off businesses in processing and

      (...story continues at the link above...)


      "Detroit with Reference design overlay"



      Christopher Miller
      Montreal QC Canada

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