PHOTO: Detroit’s abandoned Central Station (Melanie Stetson Freeman/ The Christian Science Monitor)
The July 25th cover story tackles the tricky restructuring of Detroit, a former industrial gem struggling to regain its footing after nearly five decades of economic decline. Writer Mark Gaurino describes the latest plans from Mayor Dave Bing and others to help revitalize a city in which the overabundance of vacant land is currently its biggest resource.
Part of the Mayor’s plan includes connecting and consolidating neighborhoods separated by abandoned land to create a smaller, more efficient city. This is a lot for a city currently large enough to fit Manhattan, San Francisco and Boston within the 139 square miles inside its borders.
Large swaths of this city look like a ghost town. Blight, resulting from abandoned homes and shuttered factories, is everywhere. Dead zones detach rather than connect neighborhoods from each other, creating a patchwork that the city says makes it too expensive to service. So the mayor has an idea: Draw residents out of marginally populated areas through direct and indirect incentives into a close-knit population core. By razing and repurposing what is left behind, the city might reduce its geographic size and save money by not having to service such far-flung neighborhoods.
One of the challenges to his plan - the city’s 48 unions, which last year cost the city nearly $400 million in healthcare and pension payouts, a figure which remains unsustainable for the struggling city. That amount also leaves Detroit susceptible to being taken over by an emergency financial manager, appointed by the Governor, who is enabled to hire and fire employees, void union contracts, and make changes without the approval of the mayor or city council.
A related business story shares more details of the Mayor’s restructuring plan, which includes demolishing 10,000 vacant and deteriorated homes. That’s nearly one-tenth of the overall 100,718 vacant addresses in the city, which represents 12 percent of the overall city size.