Monday, April 15, 2013

Detroit, Redux

NYT has a good piece on Detroit and Dan Gilbert's efforts to revitalize it.  The best bits get into the reasons for the decay, which are more accurate than the typical, reflexive answer: auto industry.  But alas, it is far more complicated than that.

There are many causes — the decline of the auto industry and white flight among them — but the one that Professor Galster returns to time and again is development in the suburbs. 
“The villains are the rules of the game,” he said. “Developers find it far more profitable to build in farmland in the suburbs than in vacant land in the core. It’s easier to acquire big sites without worrying about hidden basements, or gas stations, or a reputation for violence, or corruption or inefficiency or the potential racism of your customers.” 
It makes financial sense for developers, but it is disemboweling the city, he said. Which is why he believes that without reform to housing and development laws, neither Mr. Gilbert nor the emergency manager, nor any combination of earthly forces, can salvage Detroit.

If Detroit isn't thinking about some highway tear-outs, particularly the rather useless 375 through downtown, they're not trying hard enough.