Detroit's top 10 urban planning blunders (and 10 successes) 

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  • Courtesy Walter Reuther Library, Wayne State University

Blunder: Demolition of Detroit's first Chinatown
Detroit's Chinese population was small and decentralized until 1917, when a local Chinese mercantile association announced plans for such a neighborhood. It was to begin with the construction of a three-story mixed use building at Porter and Third streets. The immigrant neighborhood took root and expanded down Third and Abbott streets. Detroit's Chinese-American population reached 2,600 by 1960, but in 1961, the Detroit Housing Commission included Chinatown in a downtown area to be condemned for urban renewal. Thirty displaced Chinese-owned businesses planned to be part of a nearby "International Village" project, but when the concept didn't materialize, the intersection of Cass and Peterboro was hastily chosen as the new Chinatown. Where a self-reliant immigrant community once thrived is now home to surface parking lots, a parking structure, and a pointless boulevard in Third Street — originally a narrow urban street which was significantly widened for this project.


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