Thursday, November 20, 2008
40 km2 vacant property
After a day in Ann Arbor where we met up with our colleague in the Unreal Estate project Andrew Herscher, and with the students that are working with him, we spend our first night in Detroit at the home of Design 99's Gina and Mitch. Earlier that evening Gina and Mitch took us to dinner to Slows a BBQ place on Michigan Av. The couple own a beautiful house in Hamtramck, which is in 10 minutes walking distance from their storefront and their Powerhouse.
Today, our day started with a meeting with urban planner Eric Dueweke at the Detroit Center. Eric explained that there's slowly a broad understanding developing under the general audience that Detroit needs to focus on greenery. According to him there's 30-40 km2 vacant space in Detroit, of which 9000 are in the pipeline of being torn down. Eric also informed us that of 386.000 parcels in the city, 90.000 are empty. 50.000 of these are owned by the city, 32.000 is owned by the city, 8.000 by the state of michigan and 9.000 by Wayne county.
He mentioned that the charismatic mayor of Youngstown (Ohio) Jay Williams promoted the idea that shrinking cities shouldn't dream about returning to their old state but consider developing in new directions.
A new national movement has come about called the National Vacant Property Campaign. This campaign which has also a Detroit branch is actively supported the usage of vacant urban property for urban farming. Eric also focussed our attention on the Skillman Foundation, which is documenting vacant lots.