Detroit plan to reclaim farmland

DrudgeReport linked to this story here:

Detroit, the very symbol of American industrial might for most of the 20th century, is drawing up a radical renewal plan that calls for turning large swaths of this now-blighted, rusted-out city back into the fields and farmland that existed before the automobile.

Operating on a scale never before attempted in this country, the city would demolish houses in some of the most desolate sections of Detroit and move residents into stronger neighborhoods. Roughly a quarter of the 139-square-mile city could go from urban to semi-rural.

Near downtown, fruit trees and vegetable farms would replace neighborhoods that are an eerie landscape of empty buildings and vacant lots. Suburban commuters heading into the city center might pass through what looks like the countryside to get there. Surviving neighborhoods in the birthplace of the auto industry would become pockets in expanses of green.

This is what we are going to have to start doing everywhere as the realities of the peak-oil situation become unavoidable.  I proposed back in December that we use some stimulus money to begin this process here in Massachusetts, reclaiming land where it makes sense and preserving farmland and preventing further suburban development.  This is exactly what I was talking about.


Several other declining industrial cities, such as Youngstown, Ohio, have also accepted downsizing. Since 2005, Youngstown has been tearing down a few hundred houses a year. But Detroit’s plans dwarf that effort. The approximately 40 square miles of vacant property in Detroit is larger than the entire city of Youngstown.

Faced with a $300 million budget deficit and a dwindling tax base, Mr. Bing says the city can’t continue to pay for police patrols, fire protection and other services for all areas.

The current plan would demolish about 10,000 houses and empty buildings in three years and pump new investment into stronger neighborhoods. In the neighborhoods that would be cleared, the city would offer to relocate residents or buy them out. The city could use tax foreclosure to claim abandoned property and invoke eminent domain for those who refuse to leave, much as cities now do for freeway projects.

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  1. interesting proposal

    This is a very interesting proposal for a city the size of Detroit, and clearly the issues of blight and empty lots are big problems there.

    I think that this type of proposal is good for our locale as well- it will help improve our local agriculture and food system as well as promote healthy foods in areas where access is difficult. This would be great for suburban areas as well as Boston- which has done similar things. We have a huge lead problem, so there are concerns about chemicals in the soil that need to be considered. I've seen it done in Dudley Sq. (Roxbury), Jamaica Plain, Somerville, Cambridge and on and on, but on a small scale- not land that previously housed some 10,000 people.

    My only concern is what has been raised in the article you reference- resistance and where to relocate those who are still living in the areas. Eminent Domain is a tricky issue and doesn't necessarily gain trust in one's government.

    Thanks for continuing to bring this issue of peak oil to our attention.  

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