Once home to nearly two million people, Detroit has become an icon of America’s post-industrial decline, claiming fewer than 750,000 residents. Nearly 80,000 homes sit empty. Tens of thousands of office buildings, factories and store fronts are abandoned. Even though the city’s boundaries are so vast that Boston, Manhattan and San Francisco could all fit inside, one-third of its space – 40 square miles – lies vacant, costing the city about nine million dollars per square mile in emergency services. On many blocks there are now only one or two families, where once there were dozens.
With the city running a huge deficit, Detroit’s Mayor Dave Bing says it’s time for some big changes: He wants to rebuild Detroit by downsizing it. As part of his “Detroit Works” plan, Bing wants to move people still living in blighted areas into the city’s stronger neighborhoods. A newly streamlined city would then be connected by an improved transportation system, and empty spaces could be turned into parks or farms. A pilot program called “Live Midtown,” created in conjunction with three of the city’s large employers, is offering incentives for commuters to move into the city and help redevelop its Midtown district.
Convincing people inside the city to move will be challenging enough. But can the mayor also convince commuters to move in? Desiree Cooper reports from Detroit on these controversial plans.