Join 3,424 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


GooBing Detroit
May 28, 2014 10:02 AM   Subscribe

GooBing Detroit: chronological photosets of houses and streets in Detroit from 2009 to 2013, made with the aid of Google Street View and Bing StreetSide.

Google Street View archive photos, previously
posted by Pruitt-Igoe (30 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh man, that's depressing. I sort of naively assumed there would be more teardowns of dilapidated buildings and more rehabs of wrecks. But no, it's straight-up decay.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:13 AM on May 28 [2 favorites]


sweet jesus....
posted by photoslob at 10:45 AM on May 28


The rate of decay is absolutely shocking.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:46 AM on May 28


This is the kind of apocalyptic horror evoked in zombie flicks.
posted by Mooseli at 10:47 AM on May 28


These should have a warning label.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 10:59 AM on May 28


Reminds me of The World Without Us -- basically a thought experiment asking what happens to the world if people disappear tomorrow. Short version is that some things, like stick-built houses, deteriorate into the wilderness much more quickly than you'd expect.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:10 AM on May 28 [1 favorite]


Pattern seems to be empty-->neglected-->pukes and/or burns-->bye-bye house.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 11:18 AM on May 28


I'm sure my sentiment has been mentioned in previous Detroit discussions. I think it bears repeating that groups like the Detroit Mower Gang are working to clean things up, sometimes with large events like the 2014 Motown Mowdown. Meanwhile, r/Detroit celebrates other views of the city.
posted by andythebean at 11:23 AM on May 28 [3 favorites]


Basically, 20-25 people are leaving Detroit every day. So there's plenty of homes turning up every week for scrappers, and then the arsonists clean up at night.

However, since the only meaningful outside money Detroit is getting is for blight removal, that's what we're gonna do! It won't stop the underlying problems, of course, but when all you have is a hammer...
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 11:39 AM on May 28 [1 favorite]


goobing.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:07 PM on May 28


I love those teeny little detached urban bungalows. I hope some neighborhoods are saved ... and I imagine at least a few will end up last house on the block, have the whole block bought up cheap by one guy, and be an adorbs, beautifully restored 1920 bungalow surrounded by a block of well-manicured parkland when Detroit gets rich again. They'll be extremely desirable.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:10 PM on May 28


What I always find surprising in these pics of Detroit (and other cities in the midwest) is the amount of wide open space (fields) within the city limits. Were those fields once densely packed with housing during the golden era of the mid 20th century, or was it always that way? I am more used to cities in the northeast that have organized parks, but not a single small home surrounded by acres and acres of grass and trees. It almost looks rural within the city limits. I can see how it would make sense for the city to dramatically contract and focus resources on those areas with higher population density and just give the rest back to nature.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 12:11 PM on May 28


Yup, the open fields used to be the same type of housing, a lot of these areas have been in decay since the 1970s or 80s, so there's a lot of lots that already turned over to prairie before google street view.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 12:16 PM on May 28


As the NYTimes article linked above notes, the bigger problem is the industrial blight. Bringing down old factories and warehouses is expensive and environmentally challenging.
posted by spicynuts at 12:20 PM on May 28


"Why Don't We Own This", which seems to be the engine for most of the tax information on this Tumblr, is fascinating.
posted by Shepherd at 12:31 PM on May 28 [2 favorites]


Yup, the open fields used to be the same type of housing, a lot of these areas have been in decay since the 1970s or 80s, so there's a lot of lots that already turned over to prairie before google street view.

Nope, nope, this magically happened since 2009 thanks to Obama, or at least that's what I'm told by the links posted to Facebook by that rabid teabagger guy I went to high school with.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:57 PM on May 28


Seymour Zamboni: "What I always find surprising in these pics of Detroit (and other cities in the midwest) is the amount of wide open space (fields) within the city limits. Were those fields once densely packed with housing during the golden era of the mid 20th century, or was it always that way?"

Mostly housing decay in Detroit; sometimes industrial brownfields or commercial teardowns that aren't worth redeveloping. Sometimes turnover of various civic buildings (churches, schools) that aren't supported by the population any longer due to various demographic changes even if housing density hasn't dropped. (For example, in the 1960s, 2/3 of households had K-12 children; today just 1/3 do, so a similarly-housed area could close a bunch of schools. And families are smaller but live in more space, so you could have the houses all occupied but with fewer people). Sometimes it's redevelopment in odd patterns, getting rid of alleys or incomplete zoning conversions or a developer tries to buy a whole neighborhood for redevelopment but can't get a few plots and abandons his scheme. There's a big weirdly vacant four-block lot in my city that was a grade school that was closed, eventually sold for salvage at auction for $10, and the salvagers only got about halfway through the job before giving it up. It's in the middle of a dense urban neighborhood, so it's like, "neighborhood neighborhood neighborhood neighborhood, HUGE VACANT FIELD OF PRAIRIE with some stone and brick ruins, neighborhood neighborhood neighborhood ..." Nobody wants to finish the salvage, nobody wants to pay the back taxes, nobody wants to redevelop it, so it'll sit there until either the city decides to do something with it, the area gets desirable again, or some developer (residential or industrial, I would guess; there are plenty of vacant commercial properties that are cheaper) decides he can make money on it and convinces the city to adjust the zoning and forgive the back taxes.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:14 PM on May 28


This is heartbreaking. A true libertarian paradise. Has Detroit hit rock-bottom at this point, or does it still have further to fall?
posted by double block and bleed at 1:39 PM on May 28


Then there's this guy:
http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140518/OPINION01/305180002
posted by xorry at 1:41 PM on May 28 [1 favorite]


Has Detroit hit rock-bottom at this point, or does it still have further to fall?

It's still losing population overall, but parts of the city (mostly the downtown/midtown core) are starting to support market-rate development. And the municipal fiscal situation should be a lot better following the bankruptcy process.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 1:43 PM on May 28


"I've been priced out of downtown Detroit"
posted by daninnj at 2:27 PM on May 28


The empty lots look better, the houses look worse.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:53 PM on May 28


Eyebrows McGee: "when Detroit gets rich again."

You're far more optimistic than I am. I'm fearful that we'll see many more Detroit-like cities in the US in the future.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 6:43 PM on May 28


I wish they would have shaken it up with a few, if possible, time lapses of a stretch of houses getting fixed up.
posted by drinkmaildave at 5:44 PM on May 29


The blog calls this improvement, but I think the blogger was confused because the first house is gone (although the lot is mowed) and the second one is about the same.

This seems to be the Bing location (found using the segment of the map on the second image), and here is that location in 2009 from Google.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 6:11 PM on May 29


The other factor in the yards is that the Midwest has lots of room to expand, so the lots are usually a bit larger than they might be elsewhere.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:35 PM on May 30


Here's another take on those photos, pointing out many of them come from just one small part of Detroit. Also, "Goobing Detroit's founder is an employee of LOVELAND Technologies, a company contracted by the city of Detroit in the fight against city's blight."
posted by jeri at 7:58 PM on June 1


A serious question came up when I was discussing this with a coworker: can the cleared lots not be leased to farmers or does the zoning forbid agriculture?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:24 AM on June 2


The 10th Regiment of Foot: "A serious question came up when I was discussing this with a coworker: can the cleared lots not be leased to farmers or does the zoning forbid agriculture?"

A little of both! Here's some monks who have been running an charitable urban farm on empty Detroit lots since 1997, providing the organic produce to food kitchens and to markets (to support the farm). Here's a tree farm that's operating in Detroit on a fairly large scale and for-profit.

You have a couple of issues with urban farming. First, you have contaminated soil that you have to deal with if growing for market. Second, large-scale commercial agriculture comes with a lot of nuisances like pesticide spraying and vermin. Third, land zoned agricultural is typically taxed differently than land zoned commercial, industrial, or residential. (In my state it's taxed based on the projected agricultural productive value of the land, which is based partially on soil samples.)

None of these are necessarily complete bars to farms within city limits -- the monks talk about soil testing and remediation, the tree farm talks about choosing low-pesticide and low-vermin crops instead of their initial plan for fruit trees -- but it is a little bit trickier to negotiate the change in land use to "urban agricultural" than most other types of changes.

You do see a lot of community gardens on city-owned abandoned lots. Cities like them, they build community, they're low-impact, and they keep a property from being an abandoned weed-field -- and can be easily removed if the property is going to be redeveloped. It's a "casual use," that doesn't require property rights, and can be set up for $500 to $2000 usually. It's more difficult to dislodge an actual farming operation because there's considerably more long-term investment.

My city has a number of these sorts of community gardens, but only one redeveloped urban farm that I know of. (It's combination commercial/agricultural -- they have a cafe/classroom/market/stuff on site -- and I believe it's taxed as commercial and has a special use permit for its zoning.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:03 AM on June 2


From jeri's link:

it's more interesting that Goobing Detroit's founder is an employee of LOVELAND Technologies, a company contracted by the city of Detroit in the fight against city's blight. Since LOVELAND is literally paid to help eradicate blight, of course a viral site that underscores just how bad blight can be could boost any of their future prospects. We shouldn't be questioning that at all!

I don't really follow how it's in their best interests to make blight look worse than it is. The city already has maps of blighted properties. Unless they mean this will turn more people away from Detroit, and eventually, this will mean more blight for LOVELAND to get paid to help eradicate? I doubt it will have that much of an effect.

On the other hand, it's obvious (to me) that Hell Yeah Detroit would want to push their own rosy downtown-focused picture of Detroit.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:33 AM on June 2


« Older At the end of 2013 Eben Moglen (Metafilter Previo...  |  The President has been kidnapp... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments