Ten planning lessons made in Detroit


Aerial view of Detroit (background) and Windsor (foreground).

Here are my ten planning lessons from Detroit. It’s a great city that I have seen change dramatically, both for the positive and the negative, over the past 22 years as a resident of Michigan.

  • Beneath this downtrodden city was a sleeping giant just waiting to be stirred.
  • “Detroit” as a brand has definitely regained much of its showroom shine.
  • Economic decline can result in a treasure-trove of architectural gems being saved from the wrecking ball (thankfully) just by simple neglect.
  • Being located on an international border adds great vibrancy, diversity, and vitality to an urban region.
  • A metropolitan area cannot survive or compete successfully when it is divided and pitted against itself.
  • Existing human capital and infrastructure are two terrible things to waste – put those brains and bones to good use!
  • Manufacturing hubs are remarkably resilient when given half a chance.
  • The private and non-profit sectors deserve many kudos for Detroit’s recent rebound.
  • For a turnaround to be complete, it is imperative for it to be inclusive and comprehensive, not only beneficial to a few or just the wealthy.
  • Given current trends and taking the proper next steps, the City of Detroit could be quite remarkable in 10, 20, and 50 years.
This entry was posted in adaptive reuse, Advocacy, architecture, branding, Canada, cities, civics, civility, Communications, culture, diversity, geography, humanity, inclusiveness, infrastructure, land use, North America, placemaking, planning, revitalization, social equity, spatial design, sprawl, sustainability, urban planning and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Ten planning lessons made in Detroit

  1. Paul says:

    Well written, so for the City of Detroit to turn around its fortunes it must have an injection of capital from the public and private sectors, but how does this happen without the support of the local community and business ?


    • problogic says:

      Thanks, Paul. Fortunately in Detroit’s case there has been a lot of local support. Some community groups were hesitant at first, but I think everyone realizes that the efforts are producing results.


  2. Bernie Choden says:

    I was a key inside Detroit City Planning Dept. planner prior to the planned destruction of the city. I suppervised, for example, every building in the city’s 139 S. M. and did the city’s downtown plan and a large part of it’s transportation analysis and economic forecasting and development proposals. I am still aware of the actions of the Purple Gang, the Algamated Real Estate and auto corporations sinuous destructive rip off of the public resources. I was offered sanctuary by the U.K. to escape. Detroit could have taken title to its tax deferred real estate and used it as collateral for investment; a technique I used well elsewhere. Detroit could have amalgamated its leadership in robotic manufacture in the Central Area as I had organized way back before (like Leipzig’s trade fair). Only the attempt to steal our art saved the city from a complete rip off. So re-write history.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.