development

Detroit residents met Monday night for a discussion on how to move forward after the elimination of Citizens District Councils (CDCs).

CDCs have been around since the Blighted Area Rehabilitation Act of 1945 granted Michigan cities the right to acquire blighted properties using the power of eminent domain.

The Detroit City Council is considering an ordinance to ensure “community benefits” come with future large development projects—but it’s drawing some fierce pushback.

The so-called “urban development agreement” has been in the works for more than a year.

It would make sure large-scale developments offer some guaranteed benefits (like jobs for local residents and city-based contractors) and protections (like safeguards for displaced residents and the environment) to host communities.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Bankruptcy hearings begin

Municipal bankruptcy hearings began yesterday in Detroit.  Federal Judge Stephen Rhodes says the bankruptcy process will progress in federal court.  Michigan Radio’s Kate Wells reports that Detroit city workers and retirees were hoping to argue the case against cutting pensions in state court. 

State Senate finished with Medicaid draft

A state Senate work group has released a plan to expand Medicaid in Michigan.  The group has worked for weeks since the state Senate adjourned for summer recess.  Michigan Radio’s Jake Neher reports that “officials in Governor Rick Snyder’s administration are already embracing the revised plan.” 

Detroit could get new sports complex

Michigan economic officials are supporting plans for a new sports arena in Detroit.  Michigan Radio’s Rick Pluta reports “The project includes a new hockey arena for the Detroit Red Wings.  It would be within walking distance of the city’s football and baseball stadiums.”

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Thunderstorms cause power outages

Utilities say more than 200,000 homes and businesses across Michigan are without power following several days of thunderstorms and hot weather, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

DTE Energy Co. says about 175,000 of its customers were without power Thursday morning after a new round of damaging thunderstorms made its way across the state, knocking down trees and power lines. Since Tuesday, DTE says about 300,000 of its customers have been affected. The National Weather Service says wind gusts above 60 mph were reported as storms crossed the state Thursday. The Flint Journal reports 23,800 Consumers Energy customers without power in Genesee County. WSGW-AM reports 5,500 without power Midland and Gladwin counties.

Appeals court reinstates Blackwell case

The state Court of Appeals has reinstated an embezzlement case against the former emergency manager for Highland Park. Sarah Hulett reports:

Arthur Blackwell II is accused of taking $264,000 in payments that were not authorized by state officials. The appeals court decision reverses a lower court ruling - which had dismissed the case. The lower court agreed with Blackwell - who said as the city's emergency manager, he had the authority to sign the checks to himself. The appeals court says there's enough evidence that Blackwell acted improperly to try him. Blackwell was appointed to fix Highland Park's finances in 2005, by then-governor Jennifer Granholm. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy says she's pleased with the appeals court decision.

Debate over sand dune development

Governor Snyder signed legislation recently allowing Great Lakes property owners to use tillers to dig up plants on the shoreline, as long as they get a federal permit. But another fight is brewing over relaxing environmental rules to make it easier for developers to build on sand dunes. Rick Pluta reports:

Michigan has very stringent rules that prohibit building on environmentally sensitive dunes. Developers say it is possible to build on dunes set back from the shoreline without harming the view, or causing other environmental damage. The measure to relax those rules stalled just before the Legislature took its summer break, but negotiations continue in an effort to break the impasse. James Clift is with the Michigan Environmental Council. He says there may be some room to relax the rules, but he says the state needs to ensure the Great Lakes shoreline is protected.

“So if the state of Michigan isn’t stepping up, these are dunes that are globally rare resources that are going to be under development pressure.”

Clift says the dunes are a draw for tourists, and also serve as habitat for rare or threatened species.

user Joe Shlabotnik / Flickr

(You can also see this story with more photos on the Changing Gears website)

Half a century after cities across our region and country built sprawling freeways, many of those roads are reaching the end of their useful lives.

Instead of rebuilding them, a growing number of cities are thinking about, or actively, removing them. That may come as a surprise.

When Clevelanders hear that the city plans to convert a coastal freeway into a slower, tree-lined boulevard, you get reactions like this one from Judie Vegh:

“I think it’s a pretty bad idea for commuters,” she said. “And if it were 35 mph, I would just be later than usual.”

Within the next few years, Vegh’s commute on Cleveland’s West Shoreway will likely look very different.

Cleveland City Planner Bob Brown says this is not the traditional highway project, "the traditional highway project is obviously speeding things up, adding more capacity, and often ignoring the character of neighborhoods."

It’s quite a change.

In the 1950s and 60s, freeways were seen as progress and modernity. They were part of urban renewal and planners like New York’s Robert Moses tore through neighborhoods to put up hulking steel and concrete roadways.

Today, cities are looking to take them down.

The list is long:

  • New Orleans
  • New Haven
  • Buffalo
  • Syracuse
  • San Francisco

These are just some US cities thinking about or actively taking freeways down. You can find more information about these projects on the Changing Gears website.