Revitalizing Detroit’s Urban Landscape

How can Detroit’s vacant lots contribute to reviving the city?

Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson speaks with Detroit Free Press reporter John Gallagher about effective usage of urban space in Detroit. Gallagher’s recent article for the Free Press looked at the disparity between vacant land and urban development in Detroit’s neighborhoods. He discusses the efforts both from within and without the city that are pushing for changes in the availability and use of urban land.

  • Gallagher says Duggan empowering the land bank has helped a lot in identifying and releasing vacant lands to prospective buyers and developers. He says this has also sped up blight removal, but the problem is that Detroit still has thousands of dilapidated buildings and lots that haven’t been touched yet. He notes that Duggan and the land bank are focusing on specific areas affected by blight, but there are possible uses for all the spaces that can improve the city’s quality and image.
  • One of these options is blue infrastructure. Gallagher explains this is the concept of capturing rainwater before it enters into the sewer systems along with runoff from the city streets. He says cleaning this water before releasing it back into the river costs millions of taxpayers’ dollars every year and sometimes it doesn’t even happen. “The thought is that if you can capture rainwater through planting trees, rainwater retention basins, open fields, and urban agriculture the rainwater a natural place to go and that will haven to only an environmental but an economic effect as well, “ that can help revitalize the city.
  • Gallagher also says the future isn’t just about the vacant spaces. Stephen acknowledges the influence of so-called outsiders in urban development as well. He notes there is still a fear of outside exploitation in the Detroit community and Gallagher says there’s also an issue when it comes to defining these outsiders, but moving forward he feels that the various changes happening in Detroit’s infrastructure are impressive. However, there are still massive issues in the city that will need to be considered in tandem with the land problem.

Click the audio link above to hear the full conversation.