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Detroit and its Neighborhoods PDF Print E-mail
Written by Evan Gross   
Tuesday, 06 September 2011 17:44

Apart from Justin Verlander's pitching, much of the discussion this summer in Detroit has been on the Mayor's new [Short Term Intervention Strategy] for the neighborhood revitalization initiative known as the Detroit Works Project. Mayor Dave Bing announced the Strategy in late July which takes a guarded step back from previous rumors of a city plan that would cut essential services away from the Detroit's more vacant and decrepit neighborhoods and force the consolidation of the City's widely spread resident population. This new "short term" plan aims to classify city neighborhoods into three categories based on vacancy and housing conditions data. The categories: "Steady", "Transitional", or "Distressed", will determine the city's revitalization focus in each of the city's neighborhoods. For example those areas classified as "Steady" will see new commercial corridor and infrastructure investment, increased code enforcement, and rapid response to fix up neighborhood blight. "Distressed" neighborhoods will see more focus on helping people through education and jobs programs, demolition of blighted structures, and more, large scale, site acquisition and project marketing. Three neighborhoods that are often considered to be stable to transitional have been designated as "demonstration areas" for the new strategy. The city will test and monitor methods of carrying out city services in these areas and evaluate their progress at the end of six months.


This strategy addresses an important problem. However, it may still neglect to address the huge costs of continuing to provide services to a population spread far and thin. More than just increasing extra education programs, demolition, blight rapid response, and infrastructure improvement in different neighborhoods, the city will need to eventually restructure itself in terms of the cost and efficiency of its most vital services: water, sewer, police, fire, and essential infrastructure. [Letters] to the Detroit News after the announcement indicate some people are strongly skeptical and adverse to any strategy which divides Detroiters into different categories based on where they live. Others though, agree that with a city rapidly losing population, tough decisions have to be made and the sooner that politicians can make them, the better off Detroit will be in the long run. [According to] Nancy Kaffer of CrainsDetroit.com, neighborhood leaders are still waiting for a more long term solution to the city's problems. Some say that the entire process needs to be more transparent and are questioning the city's overall goals with the new category divisions. But walking the wide and empty boulevards of even some of the demo areas makes apparent the need to have a short term strategy if some of the steady neighborhoods are to maintain their viability in the immediate future. The results of the new methods and the development of a long term strategy will be closely followed as Detroit seeks a better way to function and survive.

Further Reading:

Detroit Works Project (City of Detroit):

The Detroit Free Press:

The Detroit News:

Crain's Detroit Business (UM-Dearborn):

Mass Transit Magazine:



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Michael Raley is a fourth year Sociology and Public Administration/Public Policy student at Michigan State University. He is especially interested in the public policy, politics, and sociology of urban space, as well as transportation systems and public transit. A native of the Grand Rapids area, Michael is currently an intern in the office of State Representative Roy Schmidt, who represents the west and northeast sides of the city. He also aspires to pursue a career in urban and regional planning, and hopes to attend graduate school for such a course of study.

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