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Maurice Cox grew up in Brooklyn, a borough whose name has since become a global shorthand for gentrification. An urban designer, architectural educator, and former mayor of the City of Charlottesville, VA, in 2015 Cox became head of the planning department of Detroit, where he hopes to prevent the forces that have reshaped his childhood home from taking over the Motor City. The city’s population peaked at 1.8 million, but has less than half as many residents today; Cox is using design to catalyze growth that’s incremental and closely in line with the city’s strong sense of self. This means making the most of an abundance of vacant land and listening closely to what residents have to say. Below, Cox speaks with Marc Norman about plans and projects underway, preserving Black spaces, and how Detroit might serve as a model for other cities in the 21st century.