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  1. #1
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    Default Nine reasons why Detroit failed

    Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

    The Reasons Behind Detroitís Decline by Pete Saunders

    ...But hereís the thing. Buffalo and Cleveland have suffered the same kind of economic loss, but have not (quite) fallen to the same depths as Detroit. In fact, Pittsburgh suffered as much economically as Detroit, and is now poised for an amazing Rust Belt comeback. Any number of cities has had as troubled a racial legacy as Detroit, without being as adversely impacted. And Detroit certainly hasnít cornered the market on political corruption, as long as Chicago exists. So why has Detroit suffered unlike any other major city?

    http://www.urbanophile.com/2012/02/2...pete-saunders/

  2. #2
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    I totally agree with you!!!!!

  3. #3
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    Meh, it's OK. Some of it is wrong.

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    Well, he certainly is right about the abandonment along the DTR line. I didn't really know that part of the history. And, he's right about a couple of other things, too, that I think are key: Detroit built a lot of housing for workers that did not stand the test of time. Early in the boom (1890-1920) there were tens of thousands of small, cheap, wood frame houses that ended up falling apart after 60 or 70 years-- mostly in that inner industrial ring-- and the process was repeated decades later with those hundreds of blocks of cheap, wood frame houses in ranch or cape cod style. Those were many times better quality than the ones dating from 1890--1920, but they are showing their age and are not holding up. This housing crisis, foreclosures, and scrapping has just sped up the decline. If you look at other cities' "urban renewal" projects (I'm thinking Paris in the 1840's, for instance) you'll see wholesale demolition of old, poor-quality housing that did not meet modern standards. Maybe we're doing the same thing, but one house at a time rather than as part of a grand project.

    Also, Saunders said he did not write this article as a definitive analysis, but to list some ideas that supplement the things that have been thoroughly written about by others. I think he gives some great insights.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Parkguy View Post
    ...: Detroit built a lot of housing for workers that did not stand the test of time. Early in the boom (1890-1920) there were tens of thousands of small, cheap, wood frame houses that ended up falling apart after 60 or 70 years-- mostly in that inner industrial ring-- and the process was repeated decades later with those hundreds of blocks of cheap, wood frame houses in ranch or cape cod style. Those were many times better quality than the ones dating from 1890--1920, but they are showing their age and are not holding up. This housing crisis, foreclosures, and scrapping has just sped up the decline. ....
    Housing quality, or lack of it, doesn't get the respect it should. Over time, citizens with more means moved away. Those WWII veterans were happy with those homes; their children were not. The quality of the residents eventually matched the quality of the housing stock.

    Look at Brightmoor vs. Eliza Howell.

    http://maps.google.com/maps?q=detroi...,76.72,,0,7.04

    (spin around and see what a difference a block makes)

  6. #6
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    City governments do not create safe stable neighborhoods.

    The people in the Neighborhoods do.

    Cities merely milk the neighborhoods to provide for city workers, planners etc.

    Cities do provide some protection in exchange for what they extort.

    But to think government planners and do-gooders can create stable neighborhoods is outrageous.

    The people who invest in the neighborhoods do.

    The planners are merely dead weight. Look at the bang up job they did with urban renewal. To even take what a planner has to say seriously is simply asking for more urban renewal disasters.

    Want to improve Detroit? Dump the planners in the river, allow people to invest and build on their property as they see fit. Freedom is the key. Not planners and their (not the actual property owners) vision.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Smiles View Post
    The planners are merely dead weight. Look at the bang up job they did with urban renewal. To even take what a planner has to say seriously is simply asking for more urban renewal disasters.
    What about doctors? You can find lots of examples of doctors botching surgeries and such. Does that mean that the whole medical profession is "dead weight" and people should treat their ass cancer with bed rest and fresh fruit?

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    Quote Originally Posted by antongast View Post
    What about doctors? You can find lots of examples of doctors botching surgeries and such. Does that mean that the whole medical profession is "dead weight" and people should treat their ass cancer with bed rest and fresh fruit?

    Doctors have some success stories. Same can not be said for these “planners”.

    Take a square mile section of the city. Don’t allow a planner near it. Let the owners build what they need on their property,

    It is all about trusting those who actually have skin in the game.Not some guy lording over other peoples property.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Smiles View Post
    Doctors have some success stories. Same can not be said for these “planners”.
    You can't think of any successful cities?

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    Quote Originally Posted by antongast View Post
    You can't think of any successful cities?
    The successful older cities were developed BEFORE the planners mucked things up.

    Forget all the social engineering that the planners want to engage in.

    Remove all the zoning restrictions, set the people free.

    Again, Planners and governments do not create thriving communities, the people do. The city extorts protection fees from the community, to benefit the city and it's employees.

    We need to put the horse before the cart. Cities don't create stable communities, they are parasites who provide the host with a few benefits in return. The parasite does not create the host.

  11. #11
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    "There likely was a period during the ‘70s and ‘80s when the city could have effectively redeveloped industrial land to other uses, but again Detroit doubled down on the prospect of industrial jobs."

    And I'll add, while sitting on that land waiting for nearby land to become vacant, for an even larger industrial complex.

    Also, I never thought about the abandonment in the "two mile radius surrounding the Detroit Terminal RR", but I think he's onto something there.

    And without saying it, he covered Detroit's lack of zoning, which never really did anything cohesive till after the WWII. Look around the Cass Corridor to the New Center. Factory, auto dealership, hotels, sky-scrapers, apartment complex, another factory, steam plant, several more auto dealerships, etc. surrounded by houses.

  12. #12
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    Interesting read, but I have some questions/comments:

    1) Poor Neighborhood Identification
    Wasn't there better neighborhood identification before the freeways played slice-n-dice?

    2) Poor Housing Stock
    Only if you hate detached single-family homes.

    3) A Poor Public Realm
    I can say the same about broad stretches of Chicago outside of downtown, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Cleveland

    Where I think Saunders really​ hit the nail on the head were points 4, 5, 6 and 7.
    [/FONT]

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    Failed at what?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Smiles View Post
    The successful older cities were developed BEFORE the planners mucked things up.
    Not that you care much about sounding like an idiot but please do Google the Commissioners' Plan of 1811 one day...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Smiles View Post
    Cities do provide some protection in exchange for what they extort.
    But to think government planners and do-gooders can create stable neighborhoods is outrageous.
    The people who invest in the neighborhoods do.
    Ain't that the truth!

    As someone who greatly enjoyed and cared about the city, might I share a few thoughts about why Detroit failed? Let's start with a question --- were residents unwilling to invest in their neighborhoods, or was there progressively less ability to do so? Or both?

    To try to answer this question, can we consider four processes - the first two, consequences of growth; the last two, results of management: (1) Infusion, (2) Perfusion, (3) Diffusion, and (4) Confusion ...

    Infusion and Perfusion - As the article said, Detroit was a medium-sized Great Lakes port before auto wealth - produced by inventiveness and hard work - infused and perfused the D. This created a wealth gradient that over-drove subsequent processes, masking underlying negative trends. It happened rather quickly - over less than 30 years (1900-1930) ... the greatest burst of mass wealth creation in our nation's history.

    This period of infusion and perfusion has been called Detroit's "golden age". Then the Great Depression hit, and four to eight years of misery followed. After a slow, unsteady recovery, WW2 provided an excuse for great infusion and perfusion of tax money, falsely recharging the D's economic gradient with confiscated wealth. Also, "foreign" labor from the South was infused into, and perfused, the D - tensing up a pre-existing racial gradient. ... sorta like winding up a time bomb...

    Diffusion - After WW2, industrial reorganization for domestic production caused migration of technology to the private sector, also migration of people to non-defense workplace clusters that were more distributed geographically. As the article pointed out, the concentrated population (ref. above), tired of a city infused and perfused with air and water pollution (natural consequences of industrial production), left the grimy D to claim their American Dream by the slice in suburbia. And, for a little while (1945 to 1960-something), it worked ... sort of ...

    Absent of major natural disasters, the big game-changer in an economy tends to be useful new technology. IMHO, the "beginning of the end" for Detroit came with the infusion of "advanced technology" into auto manufacturing and its dependent sectors, thereby leading to greater automation and increased "productivity". Consequent job losses (a kind of diffusion of labor) were initially masked somewhat by domestic market growth fueled by the Baby Boomers (itself, a type of population infusion and diffusion).

    Confusion - As Detroit's single-crop economy settled on its laurels, a confused management watched as product quality and (predictably) market share declined. A confused federal government lowered trade barriers, and the nation was increasingly flooded with artificially cheap imports, further decreasing market share. A confused industrial management cartel struggled to recognize and subvert, then belatedly adapt to, a profusion of social, technological, market, and global economic changes.

    A not-so-confused population sensed that their dreams were diffusing (read: eroding) ... driven by social and economic fears and tensions (a form of confusion that infused and perfused Detroit society), violence increased. Confused city, county, and state management bureaucracies dithered and wobbled from one trendy slapstick routine to another, stabbing at replays of the "capital infusion" process - floundering with (increasingly scarce) public money to slap band-aids on the "problems of Detroit". Some of the fixes worked, albeit temporarily; most flopped with a dull, expensive thud while tax revenues further decreased due to more population diffusion.

    Emblematic of the template for confusion was the mostly-corrupt Mayor Jerry Cavanaugh's and mostly-well-meaning Gov. George Romney's dithering in late July 1967 as long-simmering economic and racial pressure-gradients (ref. above) erupted into riots that for various reasons were beyond the scope of local police to control (not the fault of the police, IMO). State troopers, then the National Guard, were called in, but to insufficient effect. Requesting federal aid, Romney was told by then US Attorney General Ramsey Clark that Federal troops would be supplied only if Gov. Romney would declare a state of "civil insurrection" (influence of confused interpretations of Posse Comitatus law). Romney, a businessman, would not yield because he feared the effects on insurance payments (confusion motivated by his fear of the "act of war" escape clause). To his credit, Romney persisted in requesting Federal help. Almost two days after the riot started, President Lyndon Johnson imposed a state of emergency on the D, castigating Romney repeatedly for his indecision. Elements of the 82nd and 101st Army Airborne Divisions, waiting outside the city, entered Detroit, marking what I call the "middle of the end" for the D.

    Similar denial, dithering, clabbering about, theft and slapstick attempts at "solutions" cluttered the following years, as the denoument of Detroit's tragedy played out. I lived over 100 miles north of the D - reading, listening, inwardly digesting as many details as I could obtain about the slow-moving catastrophe. For a while, industrial wealth production in the D was sufficient to mask many of the underlying decay until, like the bones of an ageing animal, failure poked through the thinning fat.

    Is this the "end of the end", or is worse yet to come?

    I'm truly sorry if this ramble has offended anyone. Detroit is a collection of memories that still matters a lot to me. I'm very grateful for the opportunity to share a few of my simple thoughts about it...
    Last edited by beachboy; February-21-12 at 09:06 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Smiles View Post
    Look at the bang up job they did with urban renewal.
    Yes! LaFayette Park is one of the best parts of downtown to live in and has been since it was built. Woodbridge is a relic of an era when houses were required to be designed by architects. I'm glad to agree with you by ignoring everything you wrote except a sarcastic declaration.

  17. #17
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    The information about the DTR and the development around it choking off Detroit is a very interesting theory.

  18. #18
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    great planning, lets build factories on the entire riverfront and then encircle the city property with more factories. no wonder people wanted to move...get away from the smog and smells. the price of industrialization i guess.

    on another note...will st john hospital offer a live where you work program? the area around balduck park still has some great homes but the neighborhood appears in decline...

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    .....Coleman Young.....

  20. #20
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    I have wondered for years why our family left the New Center area in 1952 and returned to the South? When looking at maps and knowing our family's history, I think that the construction of the John C Lodge Freeway had a lot to do with it. Our family lived on Lincoln St. just down the street from the Ford Hospital. My older brother sold newspapers and his primary location was in front of the GM Building several blocks away. An older sister worked at the corner of W Grand Blvd and Woodward Ave. So, the construction of the freeway really divided the neighborhood and separated my family from their home and their jobs.

    My brother also spoke of gangs that were moving into the area from Hamtramck and how he had been mugged.

    My brothers and sisters said they loved Detroit up until that time.

    I know this is only one example of 'why' but one that I have wondered about for many years.

  21. #21
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    Beachboy wrote:

    "mostly-corrupt Mayor Jerry Cavanaugh"

    Please cite anything that would indicate that Cavenaugh was a corrupt" mayor. in all my years working close to City government, I have never heard anything like that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Smiles View Post
    Doctors have some success stories. Same can not be said for these ďplannersĒ.

    Take a square mile section of the city. Donít allow a planner near it. Let the owners build what they need on their property,

    It is all about trusting those who actually have skin in the game.Not some guy lording over other peoples property.
    Ummm....If you want a city without that has not been interfered with by planners or codes, take Houston - an ugly, dumpy, sprawled out mess of a city if there ever was one.

    On the other hand, look at Portland, Oregon. It has very restrictive building codes designed to create a vibrant, compact, and walkable city. That has worked out remarkably well as Portland is one of the nicest cities in the country.

    Your point about planners is probably true in Detroit's case. Demolishing intact neighborhoods to build freeways to the suburbs is never a good idea. But that doesn't mean that the answer is to just have no planning and let whatever happens happen.

  23. #23
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    great planning, lets build factories on the entire riverfront and then encircle the city property with more factories.

    That building happened well before there was a concept of City planning. Factories were built along the river because it allowed for transport of goods. Just as the Mayor wants to reserve the old Tiger stadium site for commercial use because the site abuts three freeways for transport of goods, in the old days, factories were built near shipping, near railroads and on major rivers such as the Rouge.

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    Other than the layout of the major roads in the city, I would bet that there's been very little "planning" of Detroit. Most of the city developed before zoning law came into force. As the Urbanophile article discussed, by the 1920s when the US Supreme Court upheld the right of cities to zone, most of the city was already built out and the large tracts of vacant land that existed were already "planned" for residential development, although most of that land set vacant due to the Depression. Other than some site specific examples like the Riverfront and Poletown, if you compared land uses in 1920s Detroit to today, I expect you would likely find very little divergence between the two.

    This paper made for an interesting read due to the inclusion of a lot of old maps. It helps highlight how little planning there was in the development of Detroit.

    https://jscholarship.library.jhu.edu...pdf?sequence=1

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    Why Detroit failed is in its people who live, work and play in its neighborhood to its ghettohoods.

    Lots of people and social urban know-it-alls think that Detroit failed due infusion, diffusion and confusion. It's the matter of human nature not just ,socialist unions, urban renewals, slum clearences, city government corruption, regional flight and RACE to RACE card. Now I'm not a social know-it-all. Most people from all over the world would provide their theories why Detroit crash and burn. Just look at the human nature and see why Detroit failed.

    Cities either suceed or fail by the foundations of human nature. Just as empires rise and fall. It starts with human nature and then comes your know-it all theories. Come on forumers. What's your know-it-all reasons why Detroit failed! I would like to write your side of the stories.

    WORD FROM THE STREET PROPHET

    For the 99 Percenters and Guy Fawkes

    I miss you so, Neda.
    Last edited by Danny; February-22-12 at 01:57 PM.

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