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The Paradox of the Motor City

Spencer Fleury looks into the contradictory nature of his hometown Detroit; as the city commonly praised for its car culture is now being crushed by it.
April 25, 2012, 12pm PDT | Alesia Hsiao
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Detroit became the car capital of the world by way of easy accessibility to raw materials, close proximity to water and rail transportation, and the historically fortunate location of Henry Ford's birthplace. And its built environment reflects its association with the automobile. "Detroit is the poster child for low-density urban sprawl. With nice, wide roads and endless parking, Detroit has physically changed itself over the years to accommodate the needs of the vehicles it produces." Fleury observes that this environment fails to offer the benefits that urban density can provide, and that the city is suffering from the repercussions of its sprawl-based development patterns.

"The entire metro Detroit region is having a lot of difficulty attracting educated, creative talent from the outside. What firms in the area are finding is that it isn't Detroit's, um, gritty reputation that's scaring people off. No, it's the sprawl. (And really, do read that link.) The inconvenience and ugliness of it all is preventing – or at the very least noticeably hindering – the city's rebirth."

Fleury, however, is hopeful that the emptying out of large sections of the city may provide an opportunity to retrofit its fabric to accommodate transit, cycling, and walkability.

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Published on Monday, April 23, 2012 in Beyond the Cul de Sac
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