Questioning ‘If You Demolish It, They Will Come’

Removing Detroit’s blight is highly emotional, and made more difficult by the lack of models for emulation. A recent editorial rejects the assumption that removing blight from over 100,000 vacant lots is sufficient to stimulate economic development.

After acknowledging that “[the] blight removal task force bankrolled by the federal government under the leadership of Gilbert’s Rock Ventures has set up an amazing process for mapping the city’s condition,” a recent editorial by John Gallagher pushes back on the argument that blight removal, by itself, will create economic opportunities in Detroit.

Maggie DeSantis, quoted in the article, invokes the eyeball test for the efficacy of blight removal in catalyzing economic development in Detroit: “If knocking down blight and clearing property was really the answer, then you’d already be seeing it.”

Gallagher goes on to raise the unanswered questions of Detroit’s current blight inventory and removal processes: “The short-term concerns focus on how demolition of tens of thousands of eyesore structures will take place in a short period of time. Will the debris be hauled away to landfills or dumped in the basements in a way that will create problems for future redevelopment? Will there be any attempt to salvage wood and other useful products to create a deconstruction industry in the city? Will city residents or outsiders get the jobs?”

Gallagher’s argument assumes that the ideas proposed by the Detroit Future City vision plan, which he describes as “innovative ways to repurpose urban land in the absence of development pressure,” are far from being actualized.

Full Story: John Gallagher: You tear down the blight in Detroit, but then what?

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