Fixing a Broken City

November 24, 2009
Just across the river from Detroit sits a city forgotten. Battered by the fall of the auto industry and struggling to keep its economy running, Windsor, Ontario, has seen some tough times in recent years, and things aren’t likely to improve any time soon. It has the highest unemployment rate in Canada, a plummeting population, and the empty storefronts and foreclosed homes that have come to define this generation’s Great Recession.

Though geographically south, Windsor’s been called the Detroit of the North. For some locals, it’s simply a broken city. But there’s a growing movement that believes Windsor is a city that can be fixed.

A group of artists, activists, and urbanists has come together in Windsor with the straightforward-yet-complex goal of repairing the city.

Uneasy Rider

July 1, 2011
Facing budget cuts, transit agencies building new rail projects are struggling to make the trains run on time—or at all.

Public transit needs public funding. And that goes way beyond the fare box. Local, state, and federal dollars are the lifeblood of public transportation projects in the United States. But with the country in recovery from the recession and states cutting back programs to close budget holes, support for public transit looks to be grinding to a halt.

RoboCop: The Monument

June 22, 2011
Can open source play a role in urban planning? Launched on Kickstarter, the proposal to erect a monument to RoboCop has received support from thousands of people worldwide.

The Internet's very local demand for RoboCop

Strange things can happen when the nerdy niches of the Internet mobilise. In less than a week, the wacky-yet-kindaclever idea of building a statue in Detroit of the title character from the Detroit-based 1987 film RoboCop surpassed its $50,000 goal through donations on the fundraising website Kickstarter.

Right Size Fits All

September 1, 2010
Detroit’s been in a tough spot for what seems like forever. But a fleet of progressive officials, led by Mayor Dave Bing, is working hard to reimagine the city as a less populous, but no less important, major American city. To help guide the transition, Bing has assembled a team of planners and thinkers who are tasked over the next 12 to 18 months with drafting a strategic framework plan for Detroit, intended to guide near-term investments that stabilize the city and its neighborhoods and position the city for larger economic opportunity in the long term.

At the head of this effort is Toni Griffin, a prominent urban planner best known for her work in Harlem and Washington, D.C. Lured to the city through a grant from the Kresge Foundation, Griffin works closely with Marja Winters, deputy director of Detroit’s Planning and Development Department and a member of the Next American Vanguard. Nate Berg spoke with Griffin and Winters about their efforts to reinvent the city.
This sounds like a pretty big challenge. Are you intimidated by the scope?

The Planetizen News Brief - 12/31/09

December 31, 2009
Population growth slows in the U.S., air quality rules challenge density in California, and farmers look at Detroit as a new agricultural center -- all on this week's Planetizen News Brief, produced for Smart City Radio.

Full Transcript (Audio available as .mp3 at Planetizen)

Next Steps for Shrinking Cities: Results of the Planetizen Brainstorm

July 9, 2009
Bulldoze? Densify? Walk away? There are many ways cities can react to shrinking populations and abandoned neighborhoods. Planetizen readers decide which ways are the best.

It's hard to think about Detroit these days without picturing empty streets, cracked windows, and chaos -- essentially, a broken city. In fact, if the idea of a "broken city" needed a poster child, Detroit would be high in the running. Between 2000 and 2007, the city lost more than 30,000 people. More than 15,000 homes are currently under bank ownership. More than 3,100 homes were torn down in 2008.