Strategies for Urban Reinvention
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Wayne State University Press
Series: Painted Turtle
It’s a truism that one question always leads to another. Certainly my own perspective on our distressed cities grew exponentially after Wayne State University Press published my previous book, Reimagining Detroit: Opportunities for Redefining an American City, in late 2010. ...
Introduction: Cities Today
Visiting the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., not long ago, I stopped before Boulevard des Italiens, Camille Pissarro’s lustrous depiction of Paris in the 1890s. “Now that’s a city,” I said to myself. Pissarro painted it not long after Baron von Haussmann muscled his grand vision for Paris through the twisty byways of the medieval town. ...
1. Detroit Today
Real-estate developers in the upscale suburbs north of Detroit sometimes tell a joke when the conversation turns to rebuilding the Motor City. “We did rebuild the city of Detroit,” they say. “We did it in Oakland County.” That quip contains the key to understanding Detroit today—arguably America’s most distressed big city. ...
2. New Ways to Govern Our Cities
On the afternoon of May 9, 2003, a former graduate student named Biswanath Halder, sixty-two, wearing a wig, helmet, and bulletproof vest, smashed through a glass door at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Once inside, Halder shot the first three people he saw, wounding two and killing a thirty-year-old MBA student from Youngstown named Norman Wallace. ...
3. Schools, Plus a Word about Crime
Not long after a young software entrepreneur named Peter Karmanos Jr. co-founded the Compuware company in 1973, he moved his family from Detroit to the suburbs. The prod was the day one of his sons came home from elementary school with an A in reading. ...
In 2009, a twenty-six-year-old photography buff named Rick DeVos came up with an intriguing way to spend some of his family’s fortune (an Amway inheritance from the company co-founded by his grandfather). Young DeVos believed that art of all kinds—painting, photography, drama, film, music—generates a unique chemistry between creators and consumers within the public realm; ...
5. New Uses for Urban Land
Detroiters have engaged in a lively debate in recent years over “ruin porn,” the depiction by photographers of the city’s empty factories, burned-out houses, crumbing commercial buildings, and other sad reminders of a lost urban era. Many photographers offer their painful images with high-sounding rhetoric; they compare Detroit to ancient Rome, or issue warnings on the failures of capitalism, ...
6. Learning from Europe
In late 2010, just before I flew to Europe to study shrinking cities there, I was telling my editor at the Detroit Free Press about my hopes for the trip. European cities had gained a lead on US cities; they were rebuilding post-industrial cities like Leipzig, Germany, and Manchester, England, far more quickly than we Americans had done facing similar ills in Detroit and Flint and Youngstown. ...
Conclusion: The Way Forward
Shakespeare wrote that line four hundred years ago. The oldest wisdom remains the best. Forced as are we are to reinvent cities, we find new opportunities if we open our eyes. Our creaky city-county-state governance model might give way (or, more likely, be modified) to allow more neighborhood and regional models to emerge, ...