To Save Itself, Detroit Is Razing Itself - NYTimes.com
“There’s nothing you can do with a lot of the buildings now but do away with them,” said Mae Reeder, a homeowner of 35 years on the southeast side, where her bungalow is surrounded by blocks that are being reclaimed by nature, complete with pheasants nesting in vacant spaces where people once lived.
The residential vacancy rate in Detroit is 27.8 percent. This is up from the 10.3 percent rate found in 2000 by the United States census.
“People are deciding we can’t live like this anymore,” said Steven A. Ogden, executive director of a nonprofit group, Next Detroit Neighborhood Initiative, which works to help stabilize communities. “It is my contention that we can’t afford to wait a single day without a strategy.”
Strategies are now coming from every corner, with community groups and nonprofit organization and trade groups producing frameworks.
The burst of creativity is partly a function of desperation. For the sixth decade in a row, this year’s census will bring bad news: the population, already sparsely distributed over a vast 139 square miles, has declined again, to an estimated 790,000 residents, down from 951,000 people in 2000 and a high of almost 2 million in 1950. Population loss was hastened in the last few years, experts said, by the twin blows of the foreclosure crisis and jobs lost to the recession.
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After decades of mostly ignoring its hemorrhaging population, the city government earlier this year began using federal money to demolish 10,000 empty residential buildings, with a goal of bringing down the first 3,000 structures by the end of the year.
But only 784 demolitions have been completed so far, and Mayor Dave Bing, whose predecessors were chastised at the mere mention of large-scale demolition, has been criticized not for embracing the idea but for failing to articulate a long-term vision.