Despite Bankruptcy, Detroit Master Plan Is Likely to Go Forward

DETROIT, MI - JULY 18:  A banner on a building in downtown Detroit is shown  July 18, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit today filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, making it the largest city to file for bankruptcy in U.S. history. Between the years 2000 and 2010, Detroit's population declined by a quarter of a million people.. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Despite Bankruptcy, Detroit Master Plan Is Likely to Go Forward

Despite Detroit filing bankruptcy and having an emergency financial manager, much of its ambitious master development plan is likely to move forward, leaders say.

Published August 16, 2013

For more than three years, a group of planners have been studying various concepts of how Detroit might look in another 10 to 25 years in a huge, exhaustive plan called the Detroit Works Project.

It has been the centerpiece of the urban landscape for Detroit, a plan that was endorsed by Mayor Dave Bing and a number of city officials. It called for neighborhoods zones for artists and for urban farming, economic development and even areas for light rail service.

But the future of the ambitious plan is far from clear now that the economically challenged city is under the control of an emergency financial manager who has led Detroit into a bankruptcy filing recently. Also, Bing is not running for reelection this year.

With Detroit facing the challenge of seeking to pay creditors and reduce its mountainous debt, many local citizens are concerned that there may be little focus on the long-range, ambitious development plan.

Yet, many continue to look at it as a workable, sensible plan. In fact, Mike Duggan, one of the two candidates for mayor, remains supportive of the project and would like to see much of it go forward if he is elected.

“Mike is supportive of the framework,” said John Roach, a spokesman for Duggan, in an interview with “He feels that it makes sense because it has methods of making all of the neighborhoods are viable for development. There were some concerns initially about some of the approaches with some of the neighborhoods. But those are largely gone now.”

The plan is designed to improve economic growth and the stability of the various neighborhoods in the city. It also has come up with various strategies for using vacant land, which is a major issue in Detroit. Moreover, it aims to retain and attract population for a city that has hemorrhaged residents over the last 50 years.

The report was produced by a team of urban planners led by Toni Griffin, an expert in urban redevelopment who is based in New York.

The Detroit Works Project includes some innovative ideas, such as relegating a third of the city’s land – areas that are now largely abandoned – for use as farmland, forests and space for such ecological uses as new lakes and ponds to keep rainwater away from the city’s sewage system.

The plan will require large sums of investment from not only the public but from private sources, something Duggan and his fellow candidate, Wayne County Shreiff Benny Napoleon, have advocated.

The plan will not require residents to be transplanted to other parts of the city if they choose to remain in their neighborhoods. However, the long-term blueprint calls for residents in some of the less-populated sections of the city to be able to exchange their homes for others in neighborhoods with denser populations.

Many politicians in Detroit say that much of the plan is likely to be pursued, pointing out that neither Keyvn Orr, the emergency manager, nor bankruptcy are intended to be part of the city’s long-range future. In fact, Duggan has made a hallmark of his campaign the need to get the governor to remove the position of the emergency financial manager.

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(Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Written by Jonathan P. Hicks


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