Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Detroit as a "garden city"

Image: 1944 ad from the Bohn Aluminum and Brass Corporation, which was based in Detroit.

The major theories that drive land use planning are about 110 (Garden City, suburbanism, Howard) and 90 years old (Tower in the Park, Corbusier) respectively.

As someone who grew up in Detroit when I was young, the stories I read about how the city wants to convert itself into a big garden really saddens me. See "Imagining Detroit" from the New York Times. From the article:

Imagine blocks that once boasted 30 houses, now with three; imagine hundreds of such blocks. Imagine the green space created by the city’s heartbreaking but intelligent policy of removing burnt-out or fallen-down houses. Now look at the corner of one such street, where a young man who has used the city’s “adopt-a-lot” program (it costs nothing) to establish an orchard, a garden and a would-be community center on three lots, one with a standing house. (The land, like many of the gardens, belongs to the city and is “leased” for a year at a time. But no one seems especially concerned about the city repossessing.) A young man who adopts eight lots and has bought another three has an operation that grows every year and trains eager young people. A Capuchin monastery operates gardens spanning 24 lots, five of which they own; at one of them, I meet Patrick Crouch, who’s supervising 10 gardeners-in-training and reminds me that “community gardens are not just about ‘gardens’ but ‘community.’”

The gardens are everywhere, and you almost can’t drive anywhere without seeing one — a corporation named Compuware is establishing one downtown — but it goes beyond that.

Detroit was once the manufacturer for the world--and while motor vehicles were central, sure, it wasn't just motor vehicles. Detroit's manufacturers were key to the victory over Nazism in World War II.

If anything communicates how the creation of a global economy has led to the decline of US manufacturing, it is making over Detroit into a big market garden. I guess it takes recycling and "adaptive reuse" to a new level.

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