Re-imagining Detroit


With approximately 80,000 vacant homes and a dropping population of about 700,000 (down 60% since 1950), Detroit has huge issues with crime, food scarcity, social equity, and the housing market, among others. According to Howie Kahn’s “Destroying Detroit in Order to Save it”, Dave Bing, Detroit’s mayor, believes the solution is to demolish these vacant structures, which are the scene of many crimes. Although I wish more of the demolition waste was recycled or repurposed and cringe at the fact that so many structures are rendered useless, I agree the city needs to rescale and adjust any expectations of returning to its previous population or industrial economy. I also appreciate the fact that Bing is addressing residences rather than the downtown areas, which have been the focus of many previous mayors.

Mark Maynard references a map printed in the Detroit Free Press that demonstrates how the land area of Manhattan, Boston, and San Francisco can fit easily within Detroit’s land area (note the population of Detroit has since dropped over 200,000). Maynard argues that Detroit was developed around the automobile, which allowed for massive sprawl and twisted land use/infrastructure policy. This lack of density and mostly single-family housing developments don’t help the fact that the city’s population is dropping so quickly. He proposes an “Urban Homestead Act”, where residents would be given a home to make their primary residence for a certain number of years in specified areas in the city. Regardless of whether a Homestead Act is possible, I do agree that residences need to be grouped more densely and the city’s land area will need to shrink extensively. This would lessen driving time for both residents and services, shorten transit routes, eliminate neighborhoods where only 1 or 2 homes are occupied, provide a greater amount of access to food and amenities, and reverse the massive sprawl that occurred as the city developed. John Gallapher, author of Reimagining Detroit writes, “We have to begin seeing—and believing—that smaller can mean better.”



Bauman, Kevin. 100 Abandoned Houses. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2012. <;.

“Detroit and How it Got This Way: Comparing Detroit to Three Other Cities.” Mark Maynard. N.p., 28 Jan. 2009. Web. 1 Nov. 2012.

Kahn, Howie. “Destroying Detroit in Order to Save it.” GQ. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2011.


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