Sunday, 19 December 2010

Downsizing Cities

Not all cities are growing and nowhere embodies this more in the Western world than Detroit. Whilst Chinese cities are planning for staggering levels of population growth over the next twenty years, Detroit must respond to depopulation and falling tax receipts. It was therefore interesting to see this report on how Detroit aims to downsize by cutting off services to parts of the city (also see here). With certain neighbourhoods suffering from vacant properties, high unemployment and failing infrastructure, the city will instead focus services on a core area.

This appears to be a sensible approach that can bring a number of benefits. Increased residential densities create the critical mass for public transport initiatives which can combat the dominance
of the car and bring health benefits. Higher densities also make more efficient use of land and can bring economies of scale to utilities, such as water and energy. This will save money for the city authorities and appears to be the driving force for the initiative. The reference to community farming is also positive and an excellent use of land that currently has little real estate value. Clearly the devil is in the detail and the city must be sympathetic to communities which, whilst looking desolate, do have strong social links that cannot be lost. It will be interesting to see how the city spatially develops and the role played by the planning authority in guiding the rationalisation of space.

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