Detroit Swag-o-mania

A silhouetted bronze sculpture of Poseidon frames the illuminated main entrance to the Detroit Institute of Arts during Detroit's annual Delectricity festival of lights. Stretching along Woodward Avenue through the heart of Detroit's Cultural Center the celebration is a growing and popular two-night event.

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  1. #76
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    Quote Originally Posted by nain rouge View Post
    Also, I just want to restate that the factories were just part of the equation. Somehow the suburbs (with a much greater overall population than Detroit) managed to do fairly well for decades after the riots. I'd argue it's because the suburbs saw more investment than Detroit. Now that you've all spent all this time arguing away the factories, let's you argue away the skyscrapers in Troy and Southfield, the state and federal tax dollars spent on infrastructural development for the suburbs, white flight, and etc.
    What came first, the factories and office buildings or the infrastructure improvements?

  2. #77
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hermod View Post
    At-large voting was one of those great progressive ideas (get rid of the ward bosses) that had unintended consequences. Of course eugenics was also a great progressive idea.
    Its really a good idea to pay attention to history. The main thing I realize is just how many good ideas go bad. There are always unintended consequences.

    There're also unintended consequences to doing nothing. So we're stuck with doing our best. And right now, by-ward voting will shake things up a bit. But you are right. There will be unintended consequences.

  3. #78
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    Quote Originally Posted by nain rouge View Post
    Fair enough, but I was referring to the downfalls of building Detroit as a "urban suburb city" (outside of the Midtown area) more than anything. When you quickly pack a large city full of single-family homes, it can become somewhat inflexible to future development. I believe there should have been a greater mixture of residential spaces. That said, I don't think the problem of space was insurmountable. Detroit was a humongous city.


    And yes, as far as factories go, of course you must choose the most economically efficient design, even if it takes more space. But when I drive by Chrysler's Warren Stamping Plant - which I believe Hermod is referring to - I don't see how it couldn't have fit in Detroit. According to Chrysler, the Warren Stamping Plant only takes up 78 acres, which is 0.12 square miles (if my math is correct). So, you're telling me there was no room within Detroit's 138 square miles of land for such a factory? Or is it that factory owners wanted to get out of Detroit for other reasons?
    To understand how we got to where we are, you need to look at both the residential and industrial land use patterns that developed in Detroit over time. In the 1800s, industrial land uses originally were located on small individual parcels along the railroads and down by the river and wherever a landowner pleased - often in close quarters with nicer residential areas. As a result, when Detroit exploded as a manufacturing center in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the new industrial area leapfrogged the outer residential areas and located along the railroad belt line. The areas beyond the manufacturing/railroad beltway were eventually developed as residential in the 1920s, although in some areas it took 20+ years before the subdivisions were completely built-out. Therefore, when the next wave of industrial expansion to the north took place beginning in the late 1930s, it followed the railroads that paralleled Woodward, Mound and Groesbeck into Oakland and Macomb Counties.

    There was no interest in tearing down existing industrial buildings to build new ones in their place because a) it was cheaper to build a greenfield plant, b) sometimes, their existing buildings were needed to continue making products until the new replacement products coming out of the new plants were available, c) the existing building could then always be repurposed for something else like warehousing.

    In regards to the Chrysler Stamping plant at Nine Mile and Mound Roads, it was just one part of a 140 acre manufacturing complex that Chrysler built alongside the Michigan Central rail line to stamp and subassemble truck bodies on the same site as the painting and final assembly of the completed trucks. Chrysler was attempting to emulate the Ford Rouge operations so they could remain competitive through better logistics and lower costs.

    There was even a Jones and Laughlin steel mill at the northeast of Eight Mile and Mound Roads (although I can't confirm that they ever supplied steel to the nearby Chysler stamping plant). Eventually Chrysler acquired that steel plant parcel for further expansion of their truck plant complex. Over time, the size of the Dodge truck complex in Warren Twp. grew from about 140 acres in 1937 to the approx. 195 acres it occupies today.

    So, back in 1937, where do you suppose that within the Detroit city limits you could find or accumulate 140 acres of industrially-zoned land that had both rail access and the potential for expansion onto an additional 55 acres of adjacent land?

  4. #79
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mikeg View Post
    To understand how we got to where we are, you need to look at both the residential and industrial land use patterns that developed in Detroit over time. <snip>
    So, back in 1937, where do you suppose that within the Detroit city limits you could find or accumulate 140 acres of industrially-zoned land that had both rail access and the potential for expansion onto an additional 55 acres of adjacent land?
    On that subject, I recall that the much hated 'Poletown' plant for GM was a huge victory for Coleman Young. GM said they were leaving Detroit because there was no place to build the new 'superplant design' it wanted. All new GM plants were to meet new specs. I believe Lake Orion is also a 'superplant'. Coleman asked GM for a little time to see if he could pull together a parcel within the City of Detroit. GM agreed, since they knew it was impossible.

    Well, ol' Coleman did it. He pulled together a giant parcel and kept the plant in Detroit.

    Tell the story to support mikeg's point. Industrial manufacturing's land-use changed. That, along with some NIMBYism helped build the suburbs.

  5. #80
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    I am really surprised this question was even asked in the first place. There are multiple reasons why Detroit is shrinking. Competition, corruption, crime, climate. People get sick of not having a job, living among thieves, and having to deal with snow. Sometimes I wonder why I am still here. I should give up like everyone else.

    I submit the other posts on this page as evidence.
    Last edited by DetroitPlanner; May-09-12 at 10:42 AM.

  6. #81
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    Mikeg, Wesley Mouch, et al.: Your arguments prompted me to do more research last night, and I now agree that were sound logistical reasons for moving many automotive factory operations out of the city. That said, I still believe there were also racial motivations at play, too. Sugrue notes:

    "Between 1947 and 1958, the Big Three built 25 new plants in the Detroit metropolitan area, all of them in suburban communities, most more than 15 miles from the center city."

    That many of those suburban communities would remain predominately white (often over 90-95% white) for decades was no coincidence. In a sense, the poor planning of Detroit was used against blacks - it made it all too easy to move factories out of the city and to all to easy to keep blacks pinned into the city. The suburbs allowed to people to create their own bubble communities separate from the city, with the end result being utter dilapidation of large swathes of Detroit.

    Thanks, everyone, for the insightful posts. I only make the arguments I do in the hope that my points will be refuted - I find it's the most expedient way to gain knowledge.

  7. #82
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    Quote Originally Posted by nain rouge View Post
    .....That many of those suburban communities would remain predominately white (often over 90-95% white) for decades was no coincidence. In a sense, the poor planning of Detroit was used against blacks - it made it all too easy to move factories out of the city and to all to easy to keep blacks pinned into the city. The suburbs allowed to people to create their own bubble communities separate from the city, with the end result being utter dilapidation of large swathes of Detroit.....
    Those "suburban communities" would remain predominately white because that is what they already were prior to the great influx of southern blacks to Detroit and environs. In 1930, 23% of the population of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties (approx. one-half million people) lived outside the Detroit City Limits. The 1930 US Census would be the last where Detroit's rate of population increase from the prior census would be greater than the outlying areas of the tri-county region. Despite the influx of southern whites and blacks to Detroit in the following decades, the population of the outlying tri-county areas still grew at a faster rate.

    Many of those recent arrivals found work in the new plants out in those "suburban communities" and commuted from their homes in Detroit. Yes, housing opportunities in those "suburban communities" at that time were non-existent for blacks and they faced blatant racism in the workplace, including the Hudson Naval Ordnance plant at the northeast corner of Mound and Nine Mile Roads. But those black workers prevailed and it was the white ringleaders who were fired out there in that supposedly isolated "bubble". [source]

    Regarding your comment about "poor planning", what kind of overt planning, "poor" or otherwise was used against blacks? Are you referring to municipal planning (or the lack thereof) or planning by Detroit's corporations? If it's the former, the rise of formal land use planning in Detroit happened after the die was already cast with respect to the pattern and locations of industrial land uses. If it's the latter, corporate planning is always going to look for the way to maximize their return on investment or the corporation will eventually go bankrupt and there will be no jobs for any of their employees - black or white.
    Last edited by Mikeg; May-09-12 at 01:19 PM.

  8. #83
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    Quote Originally Posted by DetroitPlanner View Post
    I am really surprised this question was even asked in the first place. There are multiple reasons why Detroit is shrinking. Competition, corruption, crime, climate. People get sick of not having a job, living among thieves, and having to deal with snow. Sometimes I wonder why I am still here. I should give up like everyone else.

    I submit the other posts on this page as evidence.

    Are you insinuating that there is no snow in Detroit's suburbs? Or are you suggesting that some of the people who chose to leave Detroit moved outside of Michigan to warmer states?


    I can understand corruption and crime as a good - but partial - explanation for Detroit's shrinkage; but competition and climate? New York City is also snowy during winter and very competitive. How many abandoned apartments can one find there in the city center?

  9. #84
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mikeg
    Many of those recent arrivals found work in the new plants out in those "suburban communities" and commuted from their homes in Detroit. Yes, housing opportunities in those "suburban communities" at that time were non-existent for blacks and they faced blatant racism in the workplace, including the Hudson Naval Ordnance plant at the northeast corner of Mound and Nine Mile Roads. But those black workers prevailed and it was the white ringleaders who were fired out there in that supposedly isolated "bubble".


    Let's just ignore that as early as the '50s, black unemployment was nearly triple white unemployment in Detroit, and that Metro Detroit has nationally been recognized as one the most (if not the most) racially segregated areas in the US. Yet to some, that's somehow all a coincidence. But while the they cling to anecdotes (a father's plant, the firing of a couple white ringleaders in a single factory), the overall statistics reveal the truth.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mikeg
    Regarding your comment about "poor planning", what kind of overt planning, "poor" or otherwise was used against blacks?


    One of the main premises behind the freeways (which, in Detroit, coincidentally meant destroying the historic black community of Black Bottom), suburbs, and etc. was to facilitate the creation of safe havens for the American dream, which meant excluding that which was undesirable. For many middle class whites in the mid-20th century, you know what that meant. But I know you and others will disagree. I can't wait to hear how Warren was in fact racially tolerant.
    Last edited by nain rouge; May-09-12 at 01:36 PM.

  10. #85
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    In her authorized biography of Little Willie John, Susan Whiteall presents a harrowing picture of the rampant crime, blight and disfunction in Black Bottom as described by little Willie himself in his interviews You should read it. So there may have been other reasons than mere "racism" to clear it.

    But don't let that get in your way.

  11. #86
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    In her authorized biography of Little Willie John, Susan Whiteall presents a harrowing picture of the rampant crime, blight and disfunction in Black Bottom as described by little Willie himself in his interviews You should read it. So there may have been other reasons than mere "racism" to clear it.


    Right, we all know how well those urban renewal projects worked out. Demolishing bad neighborhoods accomplishes nothing if you don't also fix the social ills that caused the neighborhoods to go bad in the first place. With the social ills still firmly entrenched, all such urban renewal does is make disenfranchised poor people feel more disenfranchised by destroying their neighborhoods.

  12. #87
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    I imagine that the social sciences were not advanced enough then to make such conclusions. It probably seemed like "a fresh start" would be a good thing.

  13. #88
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    Quote Originally Posted by nain rouge View Post
    [/COLOR]

    Right, we all know how well those urban renewal projects worked out. Demolishing bad neighborhoods accomplishes nothing if you don't also fix the social ills that caused the neighborhoods to go bad in the first place. With the social ills still firmly entrenched, all such urban renewal does is make disenfranchised poor people feel more disenfranchised by destroying their neighborhoods.
    So I guess what we should have learned is that we should leave ghettos the way they are because that is better for the people living there. They are just going to create a new one to make it feel like home anyway.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wheels
    So I guess what we should have learned is that we should leave ghettos the way they are because that is better for the people living there.
    Oh great, now we have urban renewal defenders. Go read about Pruitt-Igoe (as you can't look at it, since that particular urban renewal project only lasted a handful of years before people decided they were better off without it). It was never an answer. Gentrification has proven that rundown, old neighborhoods can be made viable again without running a wrecking ball through the whole thing. Organic development is almost always preferable to government projects. Empower the people to make change, not the bureaucrats. You don't think there was any connection between 16% black unemployment in the '50s, extremely segregated neighborhoods, and the hopelessness and disillusionment that boiled over into the '67 riot?

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    Oh great, now we have riot defenders! Enablers - whatever. What the rioters didn't know - but we know now - is that the cities where riots occurred in the 1960's have ALL lost economic ground. Perhaps Detroit's present state is the fault of the unrestrained and nihilistic rioters of 1967. certainly it appears that Detroit's Black community lost more than they ever gained.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nain rouge View Post
    Oh great, now we have urban renewal defenders. Go read about Pruitt-Igoe (as you can't look at it, since that particular urban renewal project only lasted a handful of years before people decided they were better off without it). It was never an answer. Gentrification has proven that rundown, old neighborhoods can be made viable again without running a wrecking ball through the whole thing. Organic development is almost always preferable to government projects. Empower the people to make change, not the bureaucrats. You don't think there was any connection between 16% black unemployment in the '50s, extremely segregated neighborhoods, and the hopelessness and disillusionment that boiled over into the '67 riot?
    Gentrification is better for the people of a ghetto neighborhood? I never knew that.

  17. #92
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    I don't defend the rioters. I'm just saying that you had people who felt the opposite of empowered - as a matter of fact, they felt so disempowered they felt the need to riot.

    If you watch the Al Profit documentary Rollin, which covers the drug dealing epidemic in Detroit during the '70s and '80s, one ex-dealer talks about how as a child he and some other children were thrown into the waters surrounding Belle Isle by police and had shots fired in their direction. Maybe you think he's lying - if that's the case, take it up with him. Either way, there was definitely a heavy-handed, oppressive white police presence in many black communities, coupled with an economy where for some mysterious reason blacks had the least opportunities for unemployment (as demonstrated by the unemployment rates). And it was that culture that bred the drug dealers and other criminals that ravaged Detroit a few decades later.

    Quote Originally Posted by SWMAP
    What the rioters didn't know - but we know now - is that the cities where riots occurred in the 1960's have ALL lost economic ground.


    Yep. New York City never recovered from the Harlem Riot of 1964.
    Last edited by nain rouge; May-09-12 at 03:50 PM.

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    Gentrification is better for the people of a ghetto neighborhood? I never knew that.

    You're intentionally twisting my language. All I said is that gentrification proves that old, somewhat decayed structures can still have valid uses if such structures are invested in properly.

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    Anyway, this is getting exhausting and I'm wasting too much time on this topic. The reaction to my more recent posts proves one of my earliest points, that most of Metro Detroit believes that Detroit proper deserves what happened to it. Ultimately, whether or not you agree with that sentiment is for you to decide, and I'm leaving it at that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nain rouge View Post

    Yep. New York City never recovered from the Harlem Riot of 1964.
    And Los Angeles certainly never recovered from the '92 riots (which occurred 25 years after the Detroit '67 riots)...

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    Detroit is shrinking because more people want to leave than move in. Who wants to move their family to a location with high crime, poor services, scarce supply of jobs and has rioting in its history? Its a no-brainer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by orpearl View Post
    Hello!

    I am an architecture student in Innsbruck, Austria. As a part of my degree I am currently doing a study about Detroit, at which I am trying to figure out what were the main factors which contributed to its astonishing (economic and demographic) growth (approximately until 1950) and what are the main reasons for its unfortunate shrinking since then.


    I was wondering if you could help me with a couple of useful links to researches that were made on this subject. Texts, graphs, pictures - anything would be highly appreciated.


    Thank you very much in advance!


    -Alexander
    Detroit is really not as unusual as it might seem. Take a look at Douglas Rae's "City: Urbanism and Its End" or Kenneth Jackson's "Crab Grass Frontier." Rae is a Yale professor and served on the New Haven mayor's staff during the 90's. Jackson's book is older, but you will find similar themes. Jackson was a history professor at Columbia.

    I grew up in Detroit in the 50's and 60's, and it hurts to watch it decline. The oft quoted reasons for the decline - auto industry, race, politics, sledgehammer policies from the Federal government resulting in catastrophic change as described by Jane Jacobs - may ignore much lower, and more basic trends. These big picture forces I think were covered well in the two books that I quote.

    My own opinion about the city I grew up in is not so much about why it declined, but why it seems so slow to adapt to changing circumstances. Jacobs had some brilliant insights into how cities work, and how they can change and adapt naturally, and that is why she hated Robert Moses. Maybe Detroit needed a Jane Jacobs and she was not to be found.

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    Nain and Iheartthed :the jury is still out on the economic impacts of the Los Angeles riot (which was not as severe as Detroit's 1967 event) but the facts about the severe riots of the 1960's are in. Several scholarly studies demonstrate that the cities that hosted severe riots took more than 20 years to recover in any way and that blacks in those cities were most negatively impacted financially over that 20 year period. So they got pretty far behind and, in Detroit, we never got caught up economically.

    "In their second paper, The Economic Aftermath of the 1960s Riots: Evidence from Property Values (NBER Working Paper No. 10493), Margo and Collins investigate the influence of riots on central city residential property values, especially black-owned properties. They find that the riots significantly depressed the median value of black-owned property between 1960 and 1970, with little or no rebound in the 1970s. The baseline estimates for severe-riot cities relative to small-or-no-riot cities range from approximately 14 to 20 percent for black-owned properties, and from 6 to 10 percent for all central-city residential properties. Household-level data for the 1970s indicate that the racial gap in property values widened substantially in riot-afflicted cities relative to others.

    The exact mechanisms through which the riots affected economic activity over a long period of time are difficult to identify, but a large number of potentially reinforcing channels exist. Property risk might seem higher in central city neighborhoods than before the riots, causing insurance premiums to rise; taxes for income redistribution or more police and fire protection might increase, and municipal bonds may be more difficult to place; retail outlets might close; businesses and employment opportunities might relocate; middle and higher income households might move away; burned out buildings might be an eyesore; and so on. These damaging aspects of riots, the authors find, apparently outweighed outside assistance directed toward the riot areas in the wake of the disturbances."

    From a publication of the National Bureau of Economic Research
    http://www.nber.org/digest/sep04/w10243.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by SWMAP View Post
    Nain and Iheartthed :the jury is still out on the economic impacts of the Los Angeles riot (which was not as severe as Detroit's 1967 event)
    This started on a blatantly wrong premise, so nothing more needs to be said than this: L.A's riot was the worse riot in American history. More people died (LA: 53 vs DET: 43) and 2) the cost of damages was far more more ($1B 1992 dollars vs $210M 1992 dollars). This riot did not hurt L.A.'s property values long term nor did it cause the city to go into a 6 decade death spiral.

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    1992 was boom times for LA allowing it to have less of an impact. Detroit in the late 1960's was already experiencing de-industrialization and flight to the suburbs. In addition LA is much more diverse than Detroit is. This led to some major changes in how the cops dealt with minorities and how minority groups dealt with other minority groups. see section regarding riots: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koreatown,_Los_Angeles
    http://www.ocregister.com/articles/c...s-angeles.html

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