Sunday, February 23, 2014

Demolishing homes isn't the same as eliminating blight

Frank Nemecek of Warrendale - Photo by Jessica J. Trevino/Detroit Free Press
Mayor Mike Duggan and Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr unveiled a plan this past week to spend $520 million battling blight in Detroit's neighborhoods over the next five years. The Detroit Free Press was kind enough to let me share my thoughts on the matter in the last section of their article about it, which is available here.

There haven't been a lot of details regarding this plan released yet, beyond its price tag. However, one of the things that I hope happens is that we shift our focus from demolition to deconstruction. Doing so would create thousands of new jobs for Detroiters as well as divert thousands of tons of debris away from landfills.

I would also like to remind everyone that demolished a building that has become an eyesore isn't always the same as eliminating blight. If there isn't a plan for what to do with the land once the building is removed, or if that plan isn't executed properly, then it will soon become a vacant parcel of land with waist-high grass and weeds; likely overflowing with trash. In doing so, we are simply trading one form of blight for another.

The way for us to avoid that, I submit, is to have a plan as to what to do with that land once the building is removed. The Detroit Works Project has a framework plan for doing this sort of thing. I simply hope that efforts to remove vacant buildings is fully integrated into that.

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