Detroit’s Rebirth: “Future City” Report offers new ideas and solutions


“Cities are living places that require ongoing awareness and firm yet flexible approaches to decision making which acknowledge changing realities and multiple voices, leading to pragmatic and agreed-on solutions” (Detroit Future City Framework, 12).

Future City, a two year report offering short and long term solutions to restore Detroit was recently released by Detroit Works. It is the culmination of an in-depth 24 month process involving 30,000 interviews, 70,000 surveys, and hundreds of public meetings.

Below are some key statistics that demonstrate the challenges Detroit is facing and the need to come together to solve these problems.

  • 79,725 out of 350,000 units are vacant in the city of Detroit-meaning the city has an astounding vacancy rate of 22.7%
  • 700,000 people live in a city originally designed for 2 million people.
  • There is only one job for every four Detroit residents
  • A recent survey of Detroit residents revealed that nearly one-third of the respondents would leave the city within five years, citing safety as the top reason.

Four major targets are to be evaluated in 2030 that stakeholders see in their vision that will be accomplished from the framework.

By 2030, Detroit will have a stabilized population
By 2030 the city will have two or three jobs for each person living in the city
By 2030, the Detroit Metropolitan region has an integrated regional public transportation system
By 2030, Detroit will become a city for all
 

The plan outlines several strategies that should be put into place to make a permanent transformation in Detroit over the next 20 years or more. There are five major planning elements: Economic Growth, Land Use, City Systems, Neighborhoods, and Land and Building Assets built within the framework to enforce the strategies:

  • Economic Growth is intended to make Detroit’s economy more knowledge based by utilizing four economic pillars: Global Trade/Industrial, Digital/Creative,Local Entrepreneurship, and Education & Medical. The four knowledge based sectors are meant to diversify the workforce.
  • Land Use is integral to transforming Detroit by addressing four key ideas: A City of Multiple Employment Districts, A City of Connecting People to Opportunity, AGreen City Where Landscapes Contribute to Health, and A City of Distinct, Attractive Neighborhoods. The city’s current footprint is too expansive to meet the current population and fiscal capacity and so it needs to be refocused to be more sustainable.
  • City Systems revises the path to sustainable systems by using three transformative ideas: Strategic Infrastructure Renewal, Landscape As 21st Century Infrastructure, and Diversified Transportation for Detroit and The Region. This element is important to the city to determine which systems are critical to remain online, discontinued, or upgraded. Financially the city cannot afford to give out these resources to areas that are not populated.
  • Neighborhood utilizes five ideas to create more choices for residents: A City of Many Assets, A City of Neighborhood Choices, A City of Different Strategies for Different Neighborhoods, A City of Diverse Housing Types for Diverse Populations, and A City of Residents Who Engage In Their Own Futures. To remain competitive and meet the demands of a 21st century city, Detroit needs to understand the needs of their many neighborhoods and the unique challenges each neighborhood may face.
  • Land and Building Assets is critical to solving Detroit’s vacancy problems which will be initiated by: A City That Shares A Vision: Coordinating the Management of Vacant Land, A City Where Everything Is Connected: Viewing Vacant and Problem Properties Within One Interrelated System, A City of Strategic Approaches: Recognizing The Uniqueness of Each Property’s Value and Challenges, A New Urban Landscape: Using Land for Infrastructure And Innovation, and a City Where Public Facility Investments Count: Aligning Public Facilities With Land Use Transportation. Detroit has numerous neighborhoods that are beset by blight and have vacant land that needs to be utilized for new uses like parks, urban farming, and commercialization. To get a handle on the declining population will mean a critical movement to alter the vacancy problem in Detroit.

The use of info-graphics and GIS data helps to showcase Detroit’s urban crises and how they are interconnected. Figuring out exactly where the problems are heavily weighted will help impact the city’s strategy.

This first of its kind report can be a great tool for other cities across America facing similar problems to better assess and find new and innovative solutions.

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