Next City: Can Urban Planning Rescue Detroit?

Any vision for far-reaching changes to Detroit is destined to meet considerable skepticism. After all, the mid-century urban renewal projects that decimated minority neighborhoods all throughout Motor City still resonate in the minds of many. And in the decades since, multiple well-intentioned strategies for reviving moribund sections of the city have failed, making the city something of a perpetual case study for urban planners. This year marks the launch of perhaps the most ambitious of these plans — Detroit Future City, a 50-year, philanthropy-backed endeavor meant to align local decision-makers at all levels with a coherent vision for the city. The plan takes on all the hot-button issues, from the question of whether to divest from certain areas and shrink the city’s footprint to how to support the informal, unrecognized businesses that are the lifeblood of many of the city’s neighborhoods. Detroit-based writer Anna Clark provides an in-depth look at the vision and the movement it is sparking in the vibrant city that urban planners sometimes mistake for a blank slate.

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