I have been harsh if not apocalyptic in some recent posts about the future of Detroit. The national media has taken on Detroit as the poster child of urban decay and urban renewal. Decay is certainly an apt moniker for the city but renewal - not hardly. However, recently suggestions have been made of a revisioned form of urban recovery. Even Mayor Dave Bing has suggested that saving parts of the city is a better plan than attempting to save it all. Indeed, almost no one still holds to the idea that Detroit can be restored to what it once was.
Current thinking includes urban gardens, urban forests and urban green belts. In Detroit this has been encouraged by perhaps the one city program that has worked well in the past decade - the removal of burnt out and falling down houses. Now there is an adopt-a-lot program which allows taking over abandoned lots with no cost, to plant an orchard or a garden; perhaps even to save an entire block once the abandoned structures have been removed. One or two houses are restored on their own mini-estate in formerly side-by-side-by-side neighbors.
The belief is that Detroit as it once was is gone. The large industrial base is not only not coming back - they don't want it back. The population may continue to fall for the near future but less is more seems to be a welcome future. The new Detroit motto is "We can do better than this." In fact, I suggest renaming the city, if only calling it - New Detroit.
Two excellent articles cover these smaller is better options in a newer, greener Detroit. A New York Times piece focuses on the greening of Detroit through local food production, while the Atlantic did a profile of what they are calling the Upper-middle-class survivalists.
I hold to my view that attempts to restore Detroit are doomed but this idea of New Detroit emerging phoenix-like from the well deserved ashes of Old Detroit, that I find interesting as an urban model for all of the midwest rust belt.