open ended urbanism
one of the most startling things about detroit is the amount of open space. in its prime detroit was a city composed mostly of single family, detached dwellings. in fact 80% of its housing stock was this one typology. this unique and homogeneous make-up is one of the factors that have lead to a vast and sometimes desolate openness in the d.
most define this openness as blight, but having experienced it, i maintain that it is undoubtedly an asset. in the same ways that central park provides respite from the bustle of the urban environment, these open ended spaces are a peaceful and serene reminder that nature can coexist with man.
wildlife is returning to city, as are pioneering plants; the process of succession has begun. in some corners, the city seems to have fully remitted to a natural regression. an easy, sleepy sense of nature’s rebirth hangs in the air.
land is cheap, or free for appropriated uses, and though obstacles remain, the productive potential of openness is great.
surely not everyone can share in such romantic or optimistic notions of detroit, especially those who have watched the city lose jobs, population, and buildings over the last 60 years. and its safe to say that for some, hope and the promise of opportunity have slipped away with industry.
detroit is a unique city for sure, and not one without assets. the trick is to shift the focus from what has expired, to what has grown. openness is something the d has in spades. how urbanists, policy-makers, and citizen designers shape, catalyze, and harness this and other resources may prove to ease the city into a comfortable balance between its physical size and its population.
creative cultivation of these resources could establish a model of urbanism not seen before; one in which landscape itself becomes an economic engine. unlike more conventional BID models this shared landscape would not draw high-end boutiques or big box stores, but rather it could nurture artisans, craftsmen, tradesmen; the citizenry.