Nobody can dispute that Detroit doesn’t work very well anymore. There is vast poverty, unemployment, and blight. Plus a litany of other problems, most of which are well-known.
The question is, what do we do about them? What can anyone do about them? Within the last few years, the city has also been forced to face another unpleasant truth. There are too few people.
Too few, that is, for a city of Detroit’s physical size. You could tuck Manhattan and Boston within its borders and still have room left over. Once, Detroit was a bustling city of nearly two million people.
They weren’t packed together like sardines, but were spread out, largely in well-maintained single-family homes. That was sixty years ago, and pretty much everything is different now.
The census showed that there are barely seven hundred thousand people left. In some cases, one of two families remain on blocks otherwise filled with vacant or burned-down homes. There began to be talk about “shrinking” or “consolidating” the city.
People talked about ways to get people to move from the worst areas to more hopeful neighborhoods, to make it easier to provide city services. The mayor announced that his team would identify four to ten stable neighborhoods as part of a project he called “Detroit Works,” and then build up and further strengthen them.
This all made good, sound logical sense.