To Save Detroit, Plan For A Smaller City

<p>A recent editorial argues that Detroit must look for ways to concentrate its dwindling population in a smaller, more compact city if it is to survive.</p>
April 21, 2008, 10am PDT | Christian Madera | @cpmadera
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"Here's the stark truth, unpopular as it may be.

To survive, Detroit has to get smaller. Way smaller -- as in more compact and efficient, and less strained to provide services across a sprawling, 139-square-mile landscape with a population density that is, on average, less than half what it was 50 years ago.

We tend to talk about Detroit's dramatic population loss in terms of raw numbers -- the popular obsession with rankings and the magic sense of urban identity associated with having a million or more residents."

"Contraction has got to be an option. Empty out neighborhoods where there aren't enough houses to support the services they need, and move people into denser areas where the city can concentrate its resources and deliver more for everyone. Much of the city's near deserted residential land has got to be repurposed into a more cost-effective use -- commercial, light industrial or recreational -- if the hard work of restoring financial health is to pay off."

"John Mogk, a Wayne State law professor and expert on urban planning, said the city must embrace a whole different approach to redevelopment.

"In the sparsely populated areas, we shouldn't be cheering groups that build 50 units of new housing," he said. "That's aggravating the situation. You've got to move people around, and build in denser areas to allow the city to operate more efficiently and effectively."

Mogk also said city leaders don't have much choice. The population and budget realities won't go away."

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Published on Monday, April 21, 2008 in The Detroit Free Press
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