Models for Detroit: Belfast, Bilbao and Turin

Detroit can come back using the model of European countries that downsized and densified, restructured their industries and created incubators for innovation, say Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley of Brookings.

Katz and Bradley write, "Even if Detroit were to rebuild its economy, it would still face a fundamental obstacle to recovery. It is just too big for itself, with a landscape that even locals compare to postwar Dresden. Nearly one-third of the land in the city is empty or unused, and some 80,000 city homes are vacant. European cities faced a similar challenge. After decades of population and job loss, they were saddled with an excess of housing and too much unproductive, polluted, or vacant land. This derelict land was as much an economic problem as a physical one, depressing property values and repelling new investments. So these cities reconfigured themselves into denser communities, recycling polluted industrial lands, laying down new rail and transit infrastructure, and investing in projects that created demand not only for particular parcels, but also for the wider urban area."

Full Story: The Detroit Project



Detroit is a Perfect Storm

Unfortunately, Detroit is not Belfast, Bilbao, or Turin. Belfast is the capital, Detroit is not; nor does it have one of the state's top two universities. They are in Lansing and Ann Arbor. Race is the major factor. Belfast, Bilbao, & Turin never had to deal with that issue. Ireland is Irish. Spain is Spanish and Italy is Italian. Prior to the late 1950's there were hardly any African Americans in Michigan and most Michiganders don't think about/care about Detroit. Detroit is more akin to Brixton or Blackpool than Belfast. There is very little that compels Americans of any race to remain in Detroit. Want a hopeful reversal of fortunes? Look at Newark, NJ. Newark has a future.

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