April 22, 2009 at 10:44 am 3 comments

How can you shrink a City? Planned shrinkage is the ‘new world’ solution for saving the city Flint, Michigan from the ravages of the recession. The proposal to demolish blocks of houses is an unfathomable option. Foreclosure and an exodus of people have left almost no other alternative.

Ripping down a city, feels like some Sci-Fi film when everyone flees to survive a curse, or the plague. The curse in this case is unemployment, poverty, substandard living. In reference to the notion to shrink Flint, Dan Kildee, the Genesee Country treasurer said, “Decline in Flint is like gravity, a fact of life. We need to control it instead of letting it control us.” It sounds like a line out of the horror film “The Blob”, where a creeping crud was oozing over the city.

Quote given in New York Times, “Shrinkage is moving from an idea to a fact,” said Karina Pallagst, director of the Shrinking Cities in a Global Perspective Program at the University of California, Berkeley. “There’s finally the insight that some cities just don’t have a choice.”

Houses have been vacated in droves. Local officials want to demolish blocks and whole neighborhoods before more homes are abandoned. The remaining residents would live in the condensed areas. The land of Buick would become a wasteland. A rational for Flint’s demolition proposal as stated by the city’s financial planner, “We can save $100,000 yearly in garbage pick-ups.” Some streets have only one occupied home and only one trash can for pick-up. Sad, but true.

I grew up in the Detroit suburbs. As a young model I spent time at Buick’s headquarters in Flint. I felt comfortable, at home on a sound stage as a kid, reading my school books in a prototype car that was being photographed for an advertisement, with me in it. It’s not like I’m crying over landmarks or memories lost. It’s disconcerting to contemplate the notion of abandoning a town and leaving housing and stores in only designated areas, the chosen populated zones seems surrealistic. Maybe things like this happen in Siberia, or in Russia or …anywhere other than the United States.

The Detroit area never saw a housing boon like California, for sure. I remember back in the 50’s my parents paid under $20,000 for their home. They sold it in the late 70’s and made a profit of $8,000 dollars.
The planned shrinkage debate is being considered as a feasible option by the acting mayor, Michael K. Brown proposes, “shutting down quadrants of the city.” A master plan is needed to reconstruct how the 100,000 people, many living at a poverty level will survive. There are 70+ neighborhoods in flint over a 35 mile radius. Determining which ones to be bulldozed is a hot-box for the city planners.

Downsizing has been going on in various states, like Indiana where manufacturing is a mainstay. The recession manufacturing cities is giving cause to pink slip police officers and Fire-fighters. Schools are struggling to stay open as a $15 million budget deficit threatens to close their doors.

Drastic measures are being taken. Referring to the broken cement in most of the cities sidewalks, Mr. Kildee said, “When was the last time someone walked on that? Most rural communities don’t have sidewalks. Not everyone’s going to win. But now, everyone’s losing. If it’s going to look abandoned, let it be clean and green. Create the new Flint forest — something people will choose to live near, rather than something that symbolizes failure.”

Ghost towns may be a part of the future with more of the population aggregating in smaller communities. Having less is not necessarily a bad thing, if we can provide jobs and adequate incomes for our mass population. Jim Ananich, president of the Flint City Council said, “A lot of people remember the past, when we were a successful city that others looked to as a model, and they hope. But you can’t base government policy on hope.”

Change is imminent, being hopeful empowers the people. Without hope, there is lack of positive vision – the basis of the American Dream- we can flourish in equality, and equal opportunity.
Even a sun-flower would wither and die without the flame of hope.



Entry filed under: Community, financial. Tags: , , , , , .


3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. kate  |  July 7, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    unfortunately it does make sense – a neighborhood is more than houses. and many of the neighborhoods of this era are beautifully designed – not like post-war suburbia.
    Moving houses can be extremely cost-effective – I hope they are considering filling in some neighborhoods with homes moved in from others. It’s also a way to save and consolidate the best houses in an area.
    On a broarder scale though, I am worried about having less and less of an industrial base of the economy. If a heavy industry will all its supply chains can be easily outsourced, how much easier is it to outsource a service or financial industry?

    • 2. merrieway  |  July 9, 2009 at 3:38 am

      Residents had fled the distressed area, leaving abandomed houses in disrepair. There were no buyers, and the shrinkage plan was put into action. The exact mechanism… is complicated. Hopefully, the new city plan will be sustainable and keep the existing community in harmony, and city services available to satisfy their needs.

      • 3. Brian  |  September 8, 2009 at 8:49 pm

        Merrieway, I’m wondering what they are going to do with all of the demolished building materials?

        Aside from the debate of whether it is logical, ethical, practical, necessary, or truly in the best interest of the people, or especially for the environment; that last note brings me back to my question.

        It seems to me that there are a lot of people that could really use those materials. We are talking about Flint here, I live here, and I know quite a bit about this place having lived here since I was three. If they went and made these homes available for public dismantlement, how many people do you think would be there to help take them down quickly and efficiently, and put a lot of those building materials to good use?

        I dare say it just might be a much better way to go about it. I know that I myself am in the middle of a renovation project, and I could certainly use a LOT of building materials myself. I would love to coordinate an effort like that where everything could be carefully dismantled and the majority of it reused or recycled.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

RSS Unknown Feed

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 45,457 other followers

JOIN MerrieWay- Twitter


Recent Posts

%d bloggers like this: