Call it a comeback

Mar 13, 2001 at 12:00 am

Best Solution for Suburban Sprawl
Redevelop/rebuild the city

An idea whose time is ripe. Seems like plenty of us are dreading the day when all the land between Detroit and Ann Arbor becomes one big parking lot. Or how about between Detroit and Port Huron? Detroit and Flint? How many wetlands, farms and forests are we willing to rub out in the name of the American dream? MT readers see the choice clearly: The price of a cozy cottage for everybody supposedly far from the maddening crowd is endless asphalt, strip malls and subdivisions with no relief from endless boredom for anybody.

The real alternative is in the rear-view mirror: Get back to where we once belonged. The wide open spaces of the Motor City (including a ton of possibilities in near suburbs such as Ferndale, Hazel Park, Dearborn, etc.) are calling. As we speak, commercial buildings are being transformed into hip, airy lofts in Hamtramck, Highland Park, Corktown, et al. Townhouses on the model of that downtown oasis, Lafayette Park, are cropping up in Royal Oak, Brush Park, in the Cass and Trumbull corridors. Folks have been renovating great old dwellings in Woodbridge, Boston-Edison, the New Center, Indian Village, etc., for years. And now it all starts to join together, one previously isolated pocket blends into another — so that the city, not whatever’s left of the natural world, becomes the site of continuous development.

Detroit, like Chicago, was once a densely populated metropolis, with plenty of cool stuff happening and lots of variety when it came to social contacts. It seems to be coming back, but we need more than a change of attitude about sprawl to make the transition. For one thing, we need regional mass transit, with easy access for everybody to all parts of the greater metro area. But we also need a sense of limits: Beyond this point, no more destruction — and the city as our new frontier.