Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Detroit: Embracing the Ruins

(Photo Urbanarcheology via Wikipedia)

The New York Times ran yet another article on the fate of the Michigan Central Depot, a former grand train station that has come to symbolize the decay of Detroit. The building is a shambles. It’s owned by billionaire Matty Morourn, who hasn’t invested anything in its maintenance and probably never will as long as he remains embroiled in a dispute with various government agencies over plans for another Detroit River crossing to Canada. (He owns the existing Ambassador Bridge and wants to build a twin span, while the state has a rival proposal). The previous Detroit City Council voted to condemn and demolish the building, sending Moroun the bill, but nothing has happened and the building just sits there forlorn. From the NYT:

Preservationists, business owners, state leaders and community activists are taking what feels like a last stab at saving the 97-year-old building before it goes the way of New York’s Pennsylvania Station or, more locally, Tiger Stadium and countless other pieces of old Detroit that have fallen to the wrecking ball in recent years.

Among the recent proposals have been to turn the cavernous brick, steel and stone facade into an extreme sports castle; a casino; a hotel and office park; a fish hatchery and aquarium; an amphitheater; or a railway station again, with high-speed trains.

Or just clean and secure it, and leave it the way it is as an attraction for tourists.

It is still a magnet for urban explorers and photographers from around the world. On various Facebook pages, it has more than 15,000 fans and friends. Phillip Cooley, a restaurant owner who lives across a park from the station, estimates that about 30 sightseers a day show up at its locked gate, cameras raised. He calls the building “an education.”

This notion of securing the Michigan Central Depot, and other “industrial ruins” Detroit and converting them into tourist attractions as ruins is a good one that should be explored.

(Photo Shane Gorski/Flickr via Infrastructurist)

I realize full well this is the type of suggestion that, when it comes from an outsider, infuriates locals. But hear me out.

Detroit has a vast supply of decayed and vacant buildings, many of them architectural treasures. Even if MCD is somehow restored, it will be one of only a handful saved, while so many others will languish for some time. Many, like the Lafayette Building, may become so damaged that they have to be torn down.

What if instead of spending a huge amount of money to try to save one building, the city found a little bit of money to do basic maintenance to preserve the structural integrity of many buildings – and create a safe path through parts of them that tourists could walk through similar to how ancient ruins are displayed in Europe. Heck, don’t even clean the buildings up. That saves money and makes them even more impressive to visitors. This could preserve more structures for the long haul, and create a tourist attraction. The structures can always been renovated later when demand warrants.

Actually, the tourists are already coming whether it is authorized or not. Thirty folks a day at MCD is pretty impressive. Imaging putting a string of these sites together – probably including many of the same ones we’ve seen photographed before – and allowing tours. And of course marketing the heck out of it.

(Photo JBCurio/Flickr via Infrastructurist)

This idea also shows the type of thinking Detroit needs to be doing to build a future. Harvard business professor Michael Porter has stated that “competitive strategy is about being different. It means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique matrix of value.” The CEO’s for Cities “City Vitals” research identified four key dimensions of success, of which one is “distinctiveness”.

Being distinctive, being different, means you are doing things that most other people aren’t. It doesn’t mean that everything you do has to be different. There is plenty of scope for implementing best practices, such as complete streets. But you can’t hang your hat on that alone.

Imagine a Detroit with a light rail line on Woodward, bike lanes, art galleries, etc. That’s a nice vision, and those might do some good, but ultimately they are not really going to attract anyone to Detroit or create a unique offering there because there are plenty of places that already do those things better than Detroit ever will.

I’ve said before that Detroit is a big city with a powerful brand, the sort of place that can attract people. One possible way is to make Detroit the ultimate arena in which to prove out alternative visions of our urban future, a new American frontier where you can re-imagine and reinvent yourself and pursue wild and crazy urbanist dreams that would just plain be off limits anywhere else.

The concept of “embracing the ruins” goes right alone with this. What other city has such a supply of these or would dare step up to preserve them as ruins? I can’t name one. That’s distinctiveness for you, and distinctiveness that totally reinforces a possible brand image.

Frankly, we probably should preserve some of these in America. I’ve written before about the possibility that the enclosed mall might end up all but obliterated from the American landscape. So too the industrial ruin.

America should perhaps keep some reminders of the vanity of life and the follies of the industrial age, to the hubris that brought so many gains, but also so many ills – and one heckuva hangover – to our country. This might even be a legitimate place where federal assistance is warranted – to save these buildings from the wrecking ball and preserve them as national monuments to the industrial moment in America.

For another view on MCD, see Wayne Senville’s take.

Shrinking Detroit

There were more reports this week about Detroit’s plans to shrink itself. Unlike the Youngstown situation, where a more or less gradual and voluntary approach is being taken, it looks like Detroit is lining up to take stronger action to more or less decommission tracts of the city. According to the Associated Press:

Things that were unthinkable are now becoming thinkable,” said James W. Hughes, dean of the School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, who is among the urban experts watching the experiment with interest. “There is now a realization that past glories are never going to be recaptured. Some people probably don’t accept that, but that is the reality.”

Politically explosive decisions must be made about which neighborhoods should be bulldozed and which improved. Hundreds of millions of federal dollars will be needed to buy land, raze buildings and relocate residents, since this financially desperate city does not have the means to do it on its own. It isn’t known how many people in the mostly black, blue-collar city might be uprooted, but it could be thousands. Some won’t go willingly.

Several other declining industrial cities, such as Youngstown, Ohio, have also accepted downsizing. Since 2005, Youngstown has been tearing down a few hundred houses a year. But Detroit’s plans dwarf that effort. The approximately 40 square miles of vacant property in Detroit is larger than the entire city of Youngstown.

The Detroit News chimes in with a story on the locations of the most desolate neighborhoods.

The matter of the sheer scale of Detroit is worth noting again. Youngstown has a lot of great things going on, and I believe is on the right track. But it strikes me that a place like Youngstown is unlikely to attract many of the truly audacious dreamers that don’t have a pre-existing connection to the place. When you want to take on that challenge, it’s a city like Detroit or New Orleans that has the powerful brand to be a draw. I think this powerful brand is a huge asset of Detroit, a city known around the world.

This will be an interesting one to watch. I continue to be impressed with the leadership of Mayor Dave Bing and Detroit Public Schools financial receiver Robert Bobb. I’d put those two up against almost anyone in the country based on what I’ve seen so far. This gives Detroit one crucial advantage that is all too lacking in so many cities: quality leadership. We’ll see where it takes them.

Previous Urbanophile Articles on Detroit

Detroit: Urban Laboratory and New American Frontier
A Plan for Detroit
Outmigration Devastates Michigan – and the Midwest
Detroit: Do the Collapse
Detroit: Not the Future of the American City

Topics: Architecture and Design, Civic Branding, Economic Development, Historic Preservation, Strategic Planning
Cities: Detroit

25 Responses to “Detroit: Embracing the Ruins”

  1. Alon Levy says:

    A rail station doesn’t take too much space – it needs a ticket office, access to platforms and connecting buses, and some concessions. The building’s easily large enough to house administrative offices as well as several of the uses proposed for it.

    I want to say something about the need to establish more than just high-speed rail – for example, a Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter line, and a connection to the Woodward light rail – but the local Congresswoman has explicitly said that intercity rail is the priority now.

  2. I’m reminded of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche in Berlin, a church partly destroyed by bombing in 1943 that was preserved in its ruined state, and that today gazes down the axis of western Berlin’s main shopping street, a kind of ghostly presence. Tourists love it, and locals, by and large, tune it out. Perhaps you could embellish this idea by studying the branding of cities damaged by war. Post-war the first impulse is to have all the ruins gone. Only later do tourists come looking for them …

    Look also at Berlin’s processing of the Berlin Wall. A tourist walk follow’s the wall’s path, marked by distinctive stones in the pavement, and out to the east there’s a remnant preserved so people can see what it looked like — and how small it was.

    It seems to me that what your vision of Detroit could offer is the opportunity for Americans, especially older ones, to see 20th Century America as history. To see that it’s really dead, as dead as Communism, and that we have to be something else now.

  3. Curt says:

    It really is a simple idea and one that most sane “professional” people would scoff at. But given the current landscape there, what does Detroit as a whole have to lose? I like your idea Aaron. From a purely tourist point of view, I would go see it.

  4. anonymous says:

    Minneapolis has the Mill City or whatever, that’s pretty cool.

    I remember talking to some architectural students whose project was to redesign Detroit, they wanted to clear highways and old housing for the usual ideas bike lanes, urban farming, urban forests.

    I asked them, since Rome and Greece have ruins, why can’t America? Just let the things fall over, and at the right point put a nicely designed canopy over them, to preserve them for the ages.

  5. George Mattei says:

    Interesting thought. It would probably be very unpopular in Detroit, kind of like marketing yourself as an old Ed Wood movie-so bad it’s good.

    On the other hand, I do have a brother-in-law from New York that has said more than once he would like to go to Detroit just to see what it’s really like. Maybe there is merit there somewhere…

  6. cdc guy says:

    I actually like the “Shrinking Detroit” concept.

    I also think the city should consider recruiting some Amish farmers from Ohio and Indiana to take over some of the de-commissioned areas. Amish settlements don’t require much in the way of utilities, infrastructure or government services.

  7. jdg says:

    I live in Detroit and have given lectures on this very topic to groups of architects, artists, students, and community leaders. You’d be surprised at how receptive people are to the idea (maybe better coming from me than you or Camilo Vergara who proposed the same thing in Metropolis a decade ago?). The problem, as with anything in Detroit, is funding, even for something as seemingly simple as this.

  8. Casey says:

    Yes, Vergara (whose brother-in-law owns the Michigan Theater ruin-cum-parking-garage) suggested this many times, in \American Ruins\ as well…the \Skyscraper Graveyard\…with the People Mover as the monorail ride. Unfortunately in the 10+ years since he suggested it, a number of the hulking buildings have been lost (Hudson’s, Madison-Lenox, Lafayette and Statler, to name but a few).

    Funding is a problem, but…jdg…the powers-that-be were also mightily offended and a lot of huffing, puffing, righteous indignation and umbrage ensued. While artists, students, architects and community leaders are receptive, I have seen nothing to indicate that the establishment would ever go along with the concept. Just the debates over securing the Lafayette were shut down with little in the way of meaningful discourse.

  9. Ana Ducoing says:

    I don’t think it’s such a bad idea but know that there are many liability issues just beneath the surface. You suggest that there is no need to clean up the building much (“Heck, don’t even clean the buildings much”), but there would be many potential environmental pollution/health risk lawsuits waiting to happen. Unfortunately in our litigious society that’s something that the building owner always needs to think about.

  10. Matt says:

    Ruin gardens are fairly common in Europe Hell, millions of people a year make a destination out of seeing the Acropolis or the Colosseum. As long as the building is structurally stable, I say embrace the fact that people want to spend time there. The small-scale ruin gardens I’ve visited are universally peaceful, contemplative, almost spiritual places. I think short of the ability to functionally rehab a structure, its a great alternative, especially for historic architecture in an advanced state of decay.

  11. Alon Levy says:

    There’s really no sense ruralizing the inner city, which, while decaying, still has the highest population density in the area. The simplest way to shrink a city is to unify lots, converting apartment buildings into single-family use and turning two houses into one larger house. It happens naturally in every inner city that loses population to neighborhoods further out – it happened in Manhattan and Paris, both of which had their population peak 100 years ago.

  12. cdc guy says:

    Alon, I think Detroit is past the point of attracting people who want suburban space around them (i.e. buy the vacant lots on each side to create a suburban-sized estate). It is no longer a “failing” city, it is a failed city and people just don’t want to be there.

    Under those circumstances, it makes great sense to entirely remove swaths of infrastructure (water, sewer, street, utility lines, schools, police and fire stations) in an orderly fashion and replacing it with something that does not require services but nonetheless generates some economic activity and tax revenue.

  13. Jeff says:

    This is a good idea. I do this in Baltimore to see my city’s vacant architectural heritage.

    I would love a tour of rust belt buildings. Far more interesting than another casino.

  14. Alon Levy says:

    Detroit needs all the police and schools it can get.

  15. jdg says:

    casey, of course “the powers-that-be were also mightily offended and a lot of huffing, puffing, righteous indignation and umbrage ensued” after “american acropolis” was published. Camilo is a friend of mine but the proposal was, I believe, a thought experiment to get people thinking about these things and nothing more. my talks are much more practical.

    When I talk about my ideas to Detroit audiences—both city and suburban—I am also trying to get people to think about the buildings as outsiders do, or at least help them understand that outsiders see them as interesting and beautiful rather than symbols of all the complicated issues we’ve faced in Detroit for the past 50 years. It is actually the suburban audiences who are tougher on my ideas because they love to cluck about how “detroiters” have ruined their city and they are burdened by memories of how great the city was before they (or their parents) abandoned it.

    I do not go so far to suggest that we create ruins parks or, as Aaron has suggested, actually find a “little bit” of money to make the buildings structurally sound or allow interior tours. What I tell people is that we need to stop trying to ignore the buildings or tear them down, but to acknowledge them as something we have that is unique and different from any other major American city. I don’t suggest we try to turn them into tourist destinations, but to simply acknowledge that they already are tourist destinations, and try to capitalize on that fact. I have suggested publishing tourist maps to all the most inspiring ruin sites (complete with histories of the buildings and architectural notes) as well as putting “scenic overlook” signs or “camera” signs near some of the major ruins. I am looking for some enterprising Detroiter to start a “ruins tour” with one of those shuttle buses so that I can start pawning off the 10-15 European tourists, photographers, documentary filmmakers, urban planners, architects, and their ilk who email me every week looking for someone to show them around.

    The ruins—either these ones or the new ones we’re making right now—are a part of our future. I merely suggest that we embrace them and integrate them into the fabric of a city that does have vibrant neighborhoods, a green light for light rail up woodward, existing bike trails along the river and connecting to our amazing and thriving eastern market (as well as future bike trails connecting those to midtown and the cultural center), with amazing restaurants, national sports teams, agritourism, small-scale community farms, world-class museums, a kick ass musical heritage, and more than anything else a population of creative, kind, and wonderful people.

  16. Thanks for the comments, everyone.

    jdg, you hit a number of good points. There’s clearly something generational at work. I have advocated to many people that Indianapolis should embrace “Naptown” as a city nickname. I happen to think it is one of the all time great city nicknames. But it is amazing how negatively it is viewed among longtime residents. To them, it represents everything they would like to think they’ve transcended as a city since the 1970’s. To them it is still an insult, notwithstanding that there are probably very few people outside of Indy who would view it that way today. (I strongly doubt “Naptown” ever had wide currency as a putdown outside of the Indy itself). But younger people are starting to embrace it, with a hip, urban, edgy connotation.

    Jim Russell says “Rust Belt Chic” is a Gen X meme. I believe there is something different about how people of that generation (i.e., mine) and younger view these places. Our experience of Midwest cities is totally different from our parents. To make real progress in our cities is going to require the younger generations who see the possibility of what could be to move into positions of leadership. Those older generations are never going to be allowed to enter the Promised Land.

    Regarding all those great things you listed about Detroit, I agree. I’m not saying don’t do them. Many of them are important. But there has got to be something “of this place”. I explored this topic in a post about Indianapolis you might find interesting:

    Wacky outsiders like me might not go over too well with some of the locals, but attracting those crazy dreamers to the place is absolutely key to making it happen. That means people with different ideas about what Detroit is and should be are going to collide with long time locals. That collision and friction is a good thing. It is what makes urban dynamism possible. “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

    I can tell you this much, I’d personally be much more likely to move to Detroit than almost any other Rust Belt city I don’t already have a personal connection to.

    As for a “little bit” of money, renovating MCD would likely cost in excess of $100 million. Rather than spending that much money on one building, I’d rather see what can be done to secure these buildings for the future so that they don’t become unsalvageable. Unlike the buildings of Rome, these were not built to last for the ages.

    Detroit’s pre-War inventory, particularly its skyscrapers, is one of the best in America. Only Chicago and New York compare. Talk about an asset. Those buildings simply can never be replaced, not in Detroit, not anywhere. It’s critical that they be saved until the day it becomes economically viable to restore them.

  17. Casey says:

    jdg–what you are suggesting is not novel or unique, nor is it something with which I disagree, not in the least. That said, however, many (myself included) have earnestly tipped those very same windmills before you came to Detroit, and I am heartened that you have the passion and beliefs to continue to do so in the future.

    To be candid, however, you really need a buy-in to this cause/belief, that is, other than the 10% or so of the city’s population that live in the Villages, Downtown, Woodbridge, Corktown and Lafayette Park (and that’s probably a generous estimate). The problem in Detroit is that those that embrace the amazing structural heritage tend to preach to the Model D speaker series choir (a phenomenon which is obviously not unique to Detroit). In the meantime, the majority of the populace, and the officials they elect to govern the city, care precious little for what really makes Detroit unique. I don’t want to resort to a cliche like “changing the narrative,” but that’s kind of what needs to be done. People need to recognize these structures for the unique and amazing attributes that they are. They need to be woven into a narrative regarding the history of the city and the role they play in modern-day Detroit, not necessarily as gawking, Euro-ruins-porn, but rather as organic and valuable components of the urban fabric which, if lost, will never be replicated. Maybe I’m rambling a bit here, but historic architecture is a unique and valuable resource for any city, and the people of the city need to understand that as well–all people. Moreover, until you get buy-in from the “real” powers that be (i.e. the DEGC, DDA et. al), the windmills will continue to tip and…eventually…crumble.

  18. Phil says:

    I’ve photographed inside this building several times, but the thought of making it a tourist attraction has a few pitfalls starting with the cost. No elevators doors, rotted stairwells and asbestos insulation and ceiling material blowing about. The clean-up and safety initiations would take away from what most urban photographers are wanting to capture. The cost of making it a tourist attraction seems too high to make a profit. $100 million for complete renovation is a very conservative estimate. I’d wager Moroun has plans for this piece of property and I doubt it is city friendly.

  19. Obviously there are challenges with this, but as always in the Midwest, they tend to be approached with a “can’t do” attitude. I’m sure there were many problems with NYC closing Times Square and Herald Square to traffic. But they did it anyway. Few things worth doing are easy. Successful cities manage to get things done despite the difficulties.

  20. jdg says:

    Casey (are you the Casey in Cincinnati?) there’s a weird condescension in your comments that may or may not be intentional, but it’s making me feel defensive here when I don’t think we really disagree. I never said my ideas were “new” or “original” in fact when I speak I spend about half an hour showing how these are not original ideas at all. that’s the point. I use the example of Greenfield Village—metro Detroit’s #1 tourist attraction—and how its fake old-timey history collides with the actual history we lose and ignore in the city itself. people from all over the country visit Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village to gawk at “historical” buildings that were moved brick by brick to be rebuilt in a Dearborn meadow upwind of the River Rouge plant, when the site of the workshop where Henry Ford built his quadrocycle is now Detroit’s most incredible ruin: the Michigan Theater, a parking lot. I try to communicate that the same admiration we have for history would be better displayed downtown, where the buildings are real.

    and frankly, I’m a bit sick of the high-horse guilt-ridden liberal assumption that the people in the “white neighborhoods” that Casey identifies are on some different ideological plane that the residents of the rest of the city. it’s not like your average black middle-class family in Rosedale park or your poor-but-hanging-on family on the near east side is cheering for George Jackson every time a wrecking ball slaps into another “symbol of white Detroit.” residents of all Detroit neighborhoods want pretty much the same thing: we want the police to come when we call them. we want our schools to be safe and successful in educating our children. we want the non-architecturally significant abandoned abandoned houses in the neighborhoods to be razed. we want to get the city services that we pay for. if the city were to actually take advantage of an existing, underground tourism industry and promote the city’s downtown ruins as part of the efforts to attract visitors, bringing more money into city coffers and local businesses, I doubt the residents of ANY neighborhood would be displeased.

    my guess is the real powers (DEGC, DDA et. al) are much more “influenced” by the persuasive powers of suburban demolition contractors like Adamo than any “anti-ruins” lobby coming out of the city’s blacker neighborhoods.

    in the end, and I’m not claiming any originality here but I just try to get Detroiters (and not just the white ones!) to appreciate a vision of Detroit that outsiders come here to see: these buildings are perfectly picturesque (in Ruskin’s sense), they are historically and culturally significant, and they are just plain cool to look at. everything you’re saying about their other significance is true, Casey, but we don’t need to take a door-to-door survey of black neighborhoods to get everyone to agree that taking advantage of an underground industry of ruin porn gawkers is a reasonable idea.

  21. Rod Stevens says:

    I have to admit that I was a bit shaken after visiting Detroit a year ago in September, and I don’t think many people would come away with it as a positive “tourist” experience. I was there for the first time for the Creative Cities summit and immediately took the People Mover around to see what the place was like. I was glad to be above the street, for I saw no one on the street in many places and would have been afraid to have been alone there. Later I went out to Corktown for dinner, an unsatisfactory affair, and then walked back to RenCen to see what the experience was like. The next day I walked through some of the bigger parks downtown, and then a mile or two up Woodward Avenue, to a large theater, and back. I had been cooped up in RenCen and wanted to see what the place felt like, but could’t get much sense of it on foot. Or maybe I did, and desolation was that sense.

    I’ve been quite intrigued by the ideas of turning large swathes of the city back into something more natural. That was my idea when i was there- to add forests between the buildings. My thought then was that these buildings were about the same vintage and quality as those on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago- towering great pre-Depression office buildings, but oh-so-empty. I yearned to see them full with people living in them, surrounded by forests that, if properly patrolled, would fill the voids, would give people a pleasant sense of separation and connection with nature, instead of being left alone and in a concrete void. Sort of the Disneyland phenomena, that if you can’t see everything then everything seems to have more promise of complexity and exploration. That’s what I yearned for when I was in Detroit, of having more activity and complexity around the corner. As it was, it felt static, dead, used up, and no tourist wants to feel that.

    There was definitely a romantic movement in England in the 1830s that endorsed antiquities and follies and ruins, but that cult of the romantic placed these things, usually artificial artifacts in nature and had nature dominate them. The point was to show that nature was indeed dominant, that there was an unknowable element to it that would ultimately take over and less man’s works less powerful. That’s why you always see these ruins coming out of nature, and why, proportionately, they are much smaller than the surrounding gardens. Capability Brown did a whole lot of studies and scenes on these, usually with a “before and after” sketch that showed how the view had been made more complex, more limited, more directed. That was the general approach that Olmstedt took in Central Park, to add wondering drives that added complexity and shortened the view, as opposed to a more Versailles-like effect that would have used up the acreage in formal vistas.

    To me the great challenge at Detroit is that of faded glory, of departure. I did go out to an old speak-easy while I was there and met some of the younger urban leaders there. I was impressed with their energy and commitment, and also a sense that they were so few in number that there was a bit of a “circle the wagons” approach of getting enough energy in one place to be able to act. i think that is the right and necessary approach- to find a starting point at which everyone feels comfortable. Physically that is what Detroit needs to do as well, to figure out how much it can manage to do well, well enough for their to be real pride and energy in the place. I don’t know if the old home sites really can be turned back into productive agriculture, or if people have the time and money to farm them. I think a starting point would be forests and parks, to capitalize on those spaces as truly open and somewhat natural, like arboretums. That would create something so different that some people might want to move back into the city to be near those open spaces. That would be something they could not get in the suburbs, where the only real promise is that the lot next door will ultimately be developed.

  22. Casey says:

    Apologies jdg. Didn’t intend to be condescending, but probably more of my wearied (and misplaced) cynicism shining through. And yes, we are in complete agreement here. My perception, however, is that there is still a lot of “preaching to the choir” among a small subset of earnest and well-intentioned Detroiters. I would like to see residents of the city and, more importantly, city government, take ownership of these unique resources for what they are–not a burden, but rather as a valuable asset. That is a mindset that needs to be changed.

    What I’ve grown frustrated with, however, are the Detroitist arrivistes (not you) who roll into town preaching an almost evangelical strain of boosterism, talk in the same urbanist inbred circles, and then are shocked when the city fails to listen to them and bulldozes an historic building over the course of a weekend. Yes, I used the phrase “Model D Speaker Series” as something of a perjorative term, but there’s a kernel of truth there.

    Like I said originally, I am heartened and encouraged by your actions and what you are trying to do. I agree that taking advantage of the “ruins” is a noble and worthy cause. Until the message reaches the right people, however, I am not seeing a lot of hope for progress. Which goes back to my original point–a lot of the citizenry were offended by Vergara’s suggestion. I suspect if that trial balloon were floated again today the response would be identical, perhaps even more heated. The question is how one educates the citizenry in a manner necessary to generate the grass roots (and ultimately, civic government) support that such an endeavor really needs.

    Keep on keepin’ on.

  23. Matt says:

    I’m sad to update you on the status of the Lafayette Building. It has been demolished within the last few weeks. Get back with me an I can share some pictures.

  24. dd says:

    If you read ‘The New American Ghetto’ by Camilo Jose Vergara published in 1997 you will see that he suggested the EXACT SAME THING to people and they scoffed.
    quote from above
    In 1995 Vergara made a controversial proposal that 12 square blocks of downtown Detroit be declared a ‘skyscraper ruins park,’….

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