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Revolution Detroit

Strategies for Urban Reinvention

John Gallagher

Publication Year: 2013

After decades of suburban sprawl, job loss, and lack of regional government, Detroit has become a symbol of post-industrial distress and also one of the most complex urban environments in the world. In Revolution Detroit: Strategies for Urban Reinvention, John Gallagher argues that Detroit's experience can offer valuable lessons to other cities that are, or will soon be, dealing with the same broken municipal model. A follow-up to his award-winning 2010 work, Reimagining Detroit, this volume looks at Detroit's successes and failures in confronting its considerable challenges. It also looks at other ideas for reinvention drawn from the recent history of other cities, including Cleveland, Flint, Richmond, Philadelphia, and Youngstown, as well as overseas cities, including Manchester and Leipzig. Revolution Detroit surveys four key areas: governance, education and crime, economic models, and the repurposing of vacant urban land. Among the topics Gallagher covers are effective new urban governance models developed in Cleveland and Detroit; new education models highlighting low-income-but-high-achievement schools and districts; creative new entrepreneurial business models emerging in Detroit and other post-industrial cities; and examples of successful repurposing of vacant urban land through urban agriculture, restoration of natural landscapes, and the use of art in public places. He concludes with a cautious yet hopeful message that Detroit may prove to be the world's most important venue for successful urban experimentation and that the reinvention portrayed in the book can be repeated in many cities. Gallagher's extensive traveling and research, along with his long career covering urban redevelopment for the Detroit Free Press, has given him an unmatched perspective on Detroit's story. Readers interested in urban studies and recent Detroit history will appreciate this thoughtful assessment of the best practices and obvious errors when it comes to reinventing our cities.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Series: Painted Turtle


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

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. ...

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Introduction: Cities Today

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pp. 1-14

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. ...

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1. Detroit Today

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pp. 15-32

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. ...

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2. New Ways to Govern Our Cities

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pp. 33-78

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. ...

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3. Schools, Plus a Word about Crime

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pp. 79-92

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. ...

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4. Economics

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pp. 93-114

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; ...

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5. New Uses for Urban Land

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pp. 115-162

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, ...

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6. Learning from Europe

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pp. 163-178

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. ...

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Conclusion: The Way Forward

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pp. 179-180

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, ...


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pp. 181-190


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pp. 191-194


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pp. 208-208

E-ISBN-13: 9780814338575
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814338711

Page Count: 208
Illustrations: 44
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Painted Turtle
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OCLC Number: 867739205
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Revolution Detroit

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Subject Headings

  • Urban renewal -- Michigan -- Detroit.
  • Detroit (Mich.) -- Politics and government -- 21st century.
  • Detroit (Mich.) -- Social conditions -- 21st century.
  • Detroit (Mich.) -- Economic conditions -- 21st century.
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