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Rebirth of the Rustbelt: an architect’s perspective

More than a few people have likened the devastation inside some neighborhoods in Detroit, Michigan, to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. One observer said succinctly that Detroit has suffered a ”slow-motion hurricane Katrina.”

Architect and urban planner Reed Kroloff has been able to see both cities close up. As dean of architecture at Tulane University, he was responsible for bringing back 97 percent of the school’s student body and 100 percent of its faculty after the disaster. In 2005, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin appointed Kroloff to the “Bring New Orleans Back Commission” to assist in the reconstruction of the city. Kroloff left New Orleans in 2007 to become the director of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He continues to write and think about how cities on the brink can be brought back.

“I think that (Detroit) actually has an opportunity to be successful,” Karloff said, during an interview for Blueprint America’s “Shrinking Detroit” report,“but it’s going to take a long time. It took a long time to ruin it. You can’t fix it overnight.”

In this extended interview Kroloff talks about how cities like Detroit, Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio, can retool their economies in the 21st century, now that their 20th century factories and mills are shut down and residents have fled. Interestingly, Pittsburgh – and its turn from steel to high-tech research and development – could provide a model.

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