Monday 14 December 2009

A plan to save Detroit?

A recent article by Bruce Katz captured my attention today. It's entitled 'The Detroit Project: A Plan for Solving America's Greatest Urban Disaster' - strong words indeed. It's of interest to me for a few reasons: 1. urban policy is one of my main research areas; 2. it mentions Sheffield - where I live; 3. it uses European examples in a positive light; 4. it makes international comparisons; 5. my Grandparents used to live and work in Detroit (they were immigrants in the early 1930s); 6. I've been there and seen the city first-hand (see photos below).

The policy challenges faced in Detroit are huge. The population has halved since 1950, unemployment is at 28% and there are 1,220 violent crimes per 100,000 people. Despite all this, I found it a very enjoyable city to visit. Maybe that's because I've also lived in cities such as Glasgow and Liverpool and I like interesting places. Anyone who has driven along the lower dock road in Liverpool and West Fort Street in Detroit will understand. However, the claim that 'Europe is filled with cities that have risen from similarly miserable conditions' is, in my view, a bit over the top. Having said that, anyone who grew up in Liverpool in the 1980s would understand the comparison.

I do agree with the assertion that 'recovery requires at least a generation' - as Katz says.