America readers may be interested to know that Time Magazine recently purchased a beautiful 6 bedroom house on Detroit’s east side for under $100,000 where a few of their reporters will reside for one year, covering the changes in Detroit (good and bad) brought about by the declining auto industry. Time writers are blogging at: http://detroit.blogs.time.com/ and doing a fairly good job, in this local boy’s opinion.
East Coasters may be wondering if I missed a “0” in the house price above. This is one of the startling (and bad) changes that have occurred in Detroit’s real estate market. Mansions in fairly stable neighborhoods are being sold for a fraction of what they could have commanded before the housing market crash. This is having a devastating effect on neighborhoods as once glorious homes sit boarded up, vulnerable to the harsh elements of a Michigan winter.
I have spent most of my life living in Detroit and I am hopeful for the city’s future. One change that needs to happen, however, is that the city needs to be much smaller than it is now. Check out this map of Detroit I found online. It was originally designed by Professor Dan Pitera at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture. The map shows that Detroit, at almost 140 square miles, could easily fit San Francisco, Boston, and Manhattan within its borders and have room to spare. This is a huge city, about 2/3 the size (geographically) of Chicago. One big problem with this fact is that, with a population of roughly 933,000, a Detroit that is this large is not sustainable.
There are many reasons why the city of Detroit lost so much of its population—urban sprawl, white flight after the ’67 riots, racism, poor infrastructure and a declining industrial base. But we who live here have heard these reasons over and over. It is time for some positive news. My hope is that Time Magazine writers will explore Detroit and uncover many of the stories that need to be heard about community organizations and the great work they are doing. I hope they also discover more about the bourgeoning urban farming movement, and spend some time talking to the committed young adults who, in the face of several obstacles, continue to trickle into the city and make it their home because they believe in what Detroit is and could be. It is easy to highlight Detroit’s problems, but it takes research, care, and journalistic skill to uncover the encouraging stories. I hope Time continues the good work they have begun.