Detroit as a Test Site of the Green Future

Recently a group of planners, including long-time NHI researcher Alan Mallach, visited Detroit to survey the city’s vast vacant spaces and make recommendations on how to re-organize the city for the future. The team proposed relocating many of the city’s far-flung residents, who live in small, highly distressed residential pockets amid a sea of weedy vacancy, into urban villages As these villages are developed, the rest of the city should be designated for agricultural or recreational purposes, they said. Corridors would connect the urban villages and give residents access to the open spaces.

The challenges facing shrinking cities like Detroit are fundamentally different from those of thriving cities like Boston, New York and San Francisco. When it comes to green space, Detroit has it in spades, while strong market cities struggle to find places for street trees and grass patches amid oodles of new condo and rental projects.

David Holtzman is a planner for Louisa County, Virginia, a freelance writer, and a former Shelterforce editor.


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