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The fabulous ruins of Detroit
December 9, 2003 10:40 PM   Subscribe

The fabulous ruins of Detroit: "After decades of blight, large swathes of Detroit are being reclaimed by nature. Roughly a third of this 139-square-mile city consists of weed-choked lots and dilapidated buildings . . . rather than fight this return to nature, urban farmers have embraced it, gradually converting 15 acres of idle land into more than 40 community gardens and microfarms — some consuming entire blocks." [note: NY Times link]
posted by ryanshepard (22 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Uh, don't fogret the original site.
posted by calwatch at 11:01 PM on December 9, 2003


wow, calwatch. that's fabulous. thanks for the link. you should put that on the front page.
posted by quonsar at 11:32 PM on December 9, 2003


And here I lived smugly in Seattle, thinking Detroit was decaying into an urban wasteland...as I drove kids for an hour so they could see a real live farm on their field trip! Go Motown!
posted by Dinzie at 2:04 AM on December 10, 2003


Thanks for the top links, such a pity that those cathedrals, built for the manufacture of the automobile are in such an advanced state of decay. I sometimes hear American tourists bemoaning a lack of historical sites (with resonance for themselves) in their native land. Well here it is people and it is falling apart before your apathetic eyes, what a great shame.
posted by johnnyboy at 2:30 AM on December 10, 2003


Interesting article about the urban farming, do you not have allotments in the USA? Oh and calwatch, I second quonsar's recommendation - your link was incredible and deserves a wider audience.
posted by squealy at 2:36 AM on December 10, 2003


"allotments?" I think this word is being used in a way unfamiliar to me.
posted by majick at 4:44 AM on December 10, 2003


Some places do have allotments, some don't. It depends on the community. Usually, though, the allotments are pretty tiny.
posted by unreason at 5:40 AM on December 10, 2003


Wow, thanks for the link. You're making me homesick. *sniff*

[btw, let's go Red Wings!]
posted by adampsyche at 5:56 AM on December 10, 2003


And here I lived smugly in Seattle, thinking Detroit was decaying into an urban wasteland

Oh, it still is. Just don't wander anywhere outside of Greektown and/or Fox Town (or whatever they're calling it now).
posted by Localemperor at 6:55 AM on December 10, 2003


i think this was discussed on mefi before? regardless, i love that site

here's some photos i took from inside michigan central station

quite eery, awesome expereince

word on the street is that they're gonna renovate it to be the headquarters for the new DPD, yes?
posted by 11235813 at 7:04 AM on December 10, 2003


Uh, don't fogret the original site.

My apologies - I assumed this one was already widely known + would earn me a quick "already been discussed" reply ;) Also worth checking out are Camillo Jose Vergara's time-lapse photographs of Detroit's decay in the July/August '03 issue of Preservation (not available online, unfortunately) and in his magnum opus, American Ruins (Monacelli Press, 1999).
posted by ryanshepard at 7:45 AM on December 10, 2003 [1 favorite]


For some reason, I seem to remember the original Fab Ruins site being posted here before, although I'm too damn lazy to search for it. It's still an amazing link, though.

Wow, thanks for the link. You're making me homesick. *sniff*

Me too, adampsyche...Chicago's got it's share of urban decay, but it ain't got NOTHING on the big D.
posted by 40 Watt at 8:08 AM on December 10, 2003


I ended up walking in the Thanksgiving parade down Woodward here in Detroit this year. I lived downtown for 4 1/2 years when I went to Wayne State University, and it's strange how some parts of downtown have "cleaned up", while others were still in ruins. You'll see new buildings or renovated spots next to boarded up, burned out 1920's art deco masterpieces. It's getting better in spots, but overall it's still pretty heartbreaking.

I have to say, though, that Cass Corridor is starting to be revitalized, and perhaps one day will meet with revitalized "Fox Town". Who knows, maybe you could actually walk down there someday...
posted by greengrl at 8:19 AM on December 10, 2003


I wonder if they're considering using some GM plants designed to uptake heavy metals and other contaminants?

Project the re-design of the city in the future with far more green space. Possibles include:

A checkerboard pattern of green and multiple use.
Strip parks, alternating bands of green and multiple use.
Reduced density multiple use (why have a high rise when you have lots of open space?)
Altered traffic patterns, with zones of high, medium and low activity planned in the city.
Private agriculture vs. public parks.
posted by kablam at 8:37 AM on December 10, 2003


[this is good]
posted by plep at 9:57 AM on December 10, 2003


Allotments in the UK. FYI. Why must our common language separate us? *wrings hands*
posted by squealy at 10:24 AM on December 10, 2003


Lush overgrown ruins consuming entire blocks....

Sounds like a "Planet of the Apes" set, ready made. Or they could use it for "Logan's Run 2"
posted by troutfishing at 11:40 AM on December 10, 2003


Great link, but I wonder about the integrity of the soil. Not only are there the former industrial sites to contend with, but also a common practice in demolition for years was to simply bulldoze abandoned houses into the basements and cap it off with whatever soil is around. This also hampers redevelopment of the land for building, as you can imagine.

[I too feel homesick and add, "Go Pistons!"]

posted by marzenie99 at 11:43 AM on December 10, 2003


Or Detroit could just put a fence around it and - with Japanese tourists brought over with subsidized transportation from the "Ann of Green Gables" museum on Prince Edward Island - charge admission to their "American Urban Ruins 2100 - Cities in Decline" theme park, with free engraved rubble chunks and bricks as souvenirs.

In areas troublesomely cluttered with abandoned structures, a special program could allow America's idle rich to play at demolishing buildings with small howitzers and mortars.
posted by troutfishing at 11:49 AM on December 10, 2003


In areas troublesomely cluttered with abandoned structures, a special program could allow America's idle rich to play at demolishing buildings with small howitzers and mortars.

Have you considered submitting this to Fox as a reality show? You could call it "Urban Warriors." You could have another show on Discovery or PBS about renovating the land into a useful purpose. Can't you just hear the ad? "Will you be in the Detroit area? Would you like to demolish a building? Call us at 734-555-6789!"

This would also solve a problem in Detroit, because the City does not have nearly enough money to bulldoze all the abandoned buildings. These structures left to themselves attract all kinds of Bad Things. There is no tax base because the infrastructure sucks because there is no tax base with which to fix the rotting infrastructure.... You get the idea.
posted by ilsa at 12:51 PM on December 10, 2003


I wish Americans had UK style allotments. I tried to buy the lot next to my house to build a garden and greenhouse area so that the neighborhood kids would have somewhere to plant flowers, or veggies or whatever, and I'd have a place to raise orchids...but the home owner's association would have none of it. They've now decided that they won't even let us plant veggies in our back yard because as they said "vegetable gardens are not decorative and only approved decorative landscaping is allowed". Fascists.

Yes, the plans are to sell this place and move (again) farther into the country and hope that the suburbs don't catch up with us again. The suburban sprawl out here is amazing...one farm will get sold and poof...500 houses get put up almost overnight.

I tried to get some interest up with Dallas leaders to start community gardens in some of the abandoned lots downtown that were fairly close to where the homeless gather...but the primary response I got was that they were trying to sell the lots. (even though some have been unused for 20 years. Go figure.)
posted by dejah420 at 5:25 PM on December 10, 2003


Great link, but I wonder about the integrity of the soil.

Hopefully they're applying some of the techniques that have been developed for gardening on contaminated ground - I've seen the raised bed method being used in public gardens on New York's lower east side, which must rival Detroit for levels of heavy metals, etc.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:39 AM on December 11, 2003


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