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Shrinking Detroit Gets Underway

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By : Andy Denton    99 or more times read
Just this March, I’ve written about Motown’s planned transition from overnight recession ghost town into a farmland. I was concerned about the urban planning that they’re going to implement but after checking the city’s proposal, I realized that it’s going to be one massive project. There’s nothing wrong about this except that it’s a double-edged sword. Considering that a third of the city’s residential parcels are either vacant lots or abandoned homes, there’s definitely a lot of work ahead of them.

One person who shares the same sentiment is Robert Boyle , professor of urban planning at Wayne State University, when he writes, “We may indeed see a Gratiot forest, a new Hubbard farm or Chene village, and more. But what matters as much as individual ideas, perhaps more, is a vision for the city as a whole. Sustainable, in the full sense of the word.”

So here’s where a forest will be built. But look who’s going to get the first shock. Former presidential contender and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is saying goodbye to his childhood home in Detroit. According to the Wall Street Journal , “The house was owned by Mr. Romney’s parents, George and Lenore Romney, from 1941 until 1953, when the family moved to the northern suburbs…As recently as 2002, the house sold for $645,000. But it has had a troubled history since then, lapsing into foreclosure more than once, bouncing between lenders and falling into disrepair. Last year, following years of complaints from neighbors, Wayne County declared it “a public nuisance and blight” and ordered it demolished. The younger Mr. Romney, who is considered a leading GOP presidential candidate for 2012, said ‘it’s sad’ that his childhood home is being razed, ‘but sadder still to consider what has happened to the city of Detroit, which has been left hollow by fleeing jobs and liberal social policies.’”

Romney obviously can’t do anything about it considering the plunge in his home equity is upsetting enough. If there’re no takers, then it’s better off for Mayor Dave Bing to knock off the house and shrink the total residential area that matches its dwindling population too. But when it’s all over, expect the 90,000 vacant homes on 40 square miles to still wait for buyers in a city that should be rescued from the distressed economy.

But here’s another suggestion from Darrell Dawsey of Time Magazine : “a more concentrated populace should allow for a more efficient deployment of city services. I’d imagine we could also save some sorely needed dollars by not having to provide regular power and police and fire services to the fenced-off areas. And, as one of my best friends pointed out recently when he was championing this idea, by sealing off vacant areas, we create a type of land scarcity that gives greater value to the remaining parcels that can be developed. If/when more people returned to the city, we could re-open fenced off sections as needed.”

I think this is a smart recommendation but it’ll take a long time for a re-opening to successfully occur. What do you think about this?
Andy Denton is the COO of is a real estate search portal, dedicated to connecting home buyers and sellers to trusting real estate services. Follow the blog for up to date housing news and trends. And monitor local mortgage rates at

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