Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Incredible Shrinking City

One of my favorite movies is the 1977 classic Kentucky Fried Movie - one of the funniest movies ever made (even though Agnes threatens to throw out my copy every time I play it). If you've seen it, you know it's not a film with a beginning, middle, and end, but a collection of disjointed, hysterically funny (occasionally raunchy) segments. One of these is a parody of martial arts films called "A Fistful of Yen," in which secret agents try to infiltrate the mountain hideout of the evil Doctor Klahn. Two of the agents are captured...Doctor Klahn immediately beheads the first one, then shouts to his henchmen, "Now take him to be tortured!" The second captive says he's not afraid...the evil doctor looks him in the eye and shouts, "Take him to ... DETROIT!!" The captive is dragged away begging and screaming not to face such a horrible fate.

I told you that story to introduce this story from CNN online: Detroit Wants to Save Itself by Shrinking.

Yes, friends, the unfortunate, once mighty city of Detroit, the one-time world capital of the automotive industry that is now the decaying, largely abandoned buckle on the rust belt, is looking to bulldoze large areas of itself and return them to farms and parkland in an attempt to reinvent itself and get rid of acres of abandoned buildings that dot its blighted neighborhoods. The city can no longer afford to provide police and fire protection and other services to large residential areas which are now only sparsely populated. Under the plan, some 40 square miles of the 139-square mile city could be returned to a semi-rural state of orchards, parks, and vegetable farms.

The issue, of course, is deciding which neighborhoods will be razed and what to do with the few remaining families who live there, many of whom don't want to leave. This is urban renewal on a scale never before tried. And there are other attendant problems, one knows who might get the cleared land, but with new industries unlikely to want to relocate to Detroit, the city planners are considering agricultural uses. The city might offer larger tracts for sale or lease, or turn over smaller pieces to community organizations to use.

Detroit has vast problems, regardless of what it decides to do. It can't afford to keep up enormous areas of uninhabited, decaying buildings, but there are legal, practical, and moral issues involved with deciding which areas to clear out and what to do with the few remaining residents.

It will be interesting to see how this story develops, as what Detroit finally decides to do will set a precedent for other decaying cities Until then, "Send him to Detroit!!" will continue to be a horrifying sentence.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



Leslie David said...

I think returning parts of Detroit to agricultural use is a great idea. Surely there's enough deserted land to do this without impacting those who still want to live there.

Mike said...

The St. Louis area has remained steady at around 2.5 million. But the City of St. Louis has dropped over the years from 850,000 to 350,000. So they now have a plan to level the northern part of the city and start over.

Bandit said...

Mike posted about this some time ago. Some local businessman came up with the idea.

Mike: The arsonists are taking care of that on the north side. Four vacant house in one night last week.