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

Page 5 of 21

  • Courtesy Walter Reuther Library, Wayne State University

Blunder: Removal of skid row
Every big city at one time or another had a "skid row," a derelict street where its most desperate citizens, typically individuals with severe substance abuse problems, hit rock bottom. Detroit's skid row was Michigan Avenue between Cass Avenue and the Lodge Freeway, a stretch of pawn shops, bars, cheap hotels and soup kitchens where homeless men abounded. Proving the adage true that "when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail," when federal demolition subsidies became available in the 1950s, city planners thought that complete neighborhood demolition looked a lot like the cure for alcoholism. After razing the area in 1962, a new skid row simply appeared in the Cass Corridor. Only a handful of monolithic structures were built on the condemned land on Michigan Avenue. Today the area is an oddly desolate "border vacuum" separating Corktown and downtown, rather than the historical and walkable neighborhood it might have been.


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