alike are struggling with the decision to bail out the under-performing American automakers. But what will happen to the cities and towns of the Midwest
if the automakers fail? Flint, Michigan
provides an interesting template. In the 1960s and 70s, Flint had a population of 200,000 and was home to some 80,000 autoworkers. Today, after many plant closures, relocations, and worker buyouts
, only 8,000 autoworkers remain. So, what are we to do
with cities like Flint? There have been lots of ideas, like demolishing dilapidated houses
, renovating brownfield sites like Chevy-in-the-Hole [pdf]
, downtown business renovation
, and increasing community participation by giving ownership of vacant lots
to local homeowners.
Some progress has been made through the efforts of the Genesee County Land Bank
, an organization that, "provides six services: demolition, foreclosure prevention, rental management, housing renovation, property maintenance and a side lot program, through which empty lots are sold to adjacent homeowners. It also has developed a Web site to provide quick access to real estate listings and maps, and to allow visitors to communicate with staff through e-mail."
However, not everybody likes what the Land Bank is doing in Flint, including its mayor, who threatened to sue the organization for, "driving the price of real estate down dramatically. They're creating places for rats and prostitutes."
The central question for those interested in the future of Flint seems to be best posed by the authors of the Chevy-in-the-Hole proposal: should developers try to renovate old buildings and build new ones in order to attract new residents and business? Or should developers realize that the people aren't coming back, and in turn tear down abandoned commercial spaces and houses, rid the ground of pollutants, and turn brown sites into greenspace and municipal/state parks, thereby creating a less dense but more appealing city in which to live?
Reimagining Chevy-in-the-Hole blog
and more proposals [pdf]
for renovating the Flint River District.