Sunday, September 13, 2009

Detroit Dreams Youngstown

In just the three years I've been blogging, I've seen Pittsburgh go from the punchline of a joke to a city that everywhere else is trying to emulate. Believe it or not, Youngstown is going down the same road. The word from Detroit:

At the time of "Driving Detroit," the plans by Youngstown, Ohio, to shrink itself smartly was starting to get attention. Youngstown is a much smaller city, but I realized then that Detroit needed to do the same thing. Two years later, I'm even more convinced that Detroit should become the nation's biggest city to "right-size." ...

...The next steps are complicated and largely uncharted. Moving residents into more densely populated districts has legal and moral implications; it must be done with care and the input of those who would be moved. And what do you do with the empty space? The city is already dotted with big vegetable gardens, and one entrepreneur has proposed starting a large commercial farm. Some people advocate bike paths, greenways, and other recreation areas. Surrounded by fresh water, and buffeted by nature reasserting itself on land where factories used to be, Detroit could someday be the greenest, most livable urban area in the country. A city can dream, can't it?

The city title of "Dreamer" is already taken.

Detroit is at a crossroads. As suggested, it might look to Youngstown for inspiration. Another model is Pittsburgh. I think Detroit is too big to pull a Youngstown. In terms of area, it might be too big to pull a Pittsburgh. The city needs its own redevelopment paradigm. And perhaps in a decade, or two, people will talk about pulling a Detroit.


  1. As a libertarian, who supports the general concept of "right sizing", I have to say that one can do it without forcibly moving anyone.

    Of course not everyone will want to move and some may in fact find it reasonable to adjust to a new "rural lifestyle". What one needs to do is say that-- the city government cannot provide full city services such as water, and sewer hookups etc... There could be an adjusted rate that varies by density or other market based concepts.

  2. I would think that Detroit would incentivize relocation, but density planning has a mixed-bag of results. Some creative attraction programs are needed. I hope we don't see the city government pushing people out of neighborhoods. That's a terrifying thought.