advance Detroit. [image and words by flickr user buckshot.jones]

The retreat is over. It seems as though cities, much like whole nations, are either advancing forward or falling back. All this movement, forward and back, is never neat and clean. It is always messy and often painful. For as long as I can remember Detroit has been in a slow and messy retreat. Amid the debris of the retreat you can see pockets of advancement.

This community on the eastside is being targeted for renewal. Not the old fashioned 20th century urban renewal with its cold modern architecture and urban planning creating warehouses for the poor. This renewal gets back to the fundamental question of real estate economics; what is the highest and best use of the land? The city plans to move the few remaining people in this neighborhood into denser, more stable areas of the city. The land then can then be cleared for urban gardens and farms. This feeds into the growing desire for locally owned foods and a greater connection with how our food is grown, processed and marketed. The benefits of this plan are huge and many. The city can distribute services to the citizens more effectively and at a lower cost. The denser neighborhoods will create the market effect discussed by Jane Jacobs and a new industry will grow within the city borders- the first time that has happened since the turn of the last century when Henry Ford rode his Quadracyle down the street.

This reimagining of the city will be messy and come with a great deal of pain. Even in these neighborhoods with astonishing amounts of abandonment you will find most of the remaining residents are proud and tough. It is not unusual to drive down a street to see a row of abandoned houses with a lovingly maintained home right in the middle of the burnt and wrecked relics. For many of these folks moving and leaving behind their homes will hurt. It may cut right to their heart. But it is time for the city to advance and their pride, hard work and love will be in greatly needed by their new neighbors as they continue to advance and restore the city. In the coming decades folks will come to Detroit not to bear witness to the post- industrial apocalypse, but rather to marvel at the new modern city, an exciting blend of urban and rural.


(Many thanks to Scott for the image and inspiring words!)