Kaid Benfield Archive


Richard Florida joins the skeptics on massive urban demolitions

Kaid Benfield

Posted September 30, 2010 at 1:25PM

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Popular urbanist trend-spotter (and -maker) Richard Florida has sided with Roberta Brandes Gratz, Gregory Rodriguez, Richard Layman and yours truly in questioning the wisdom of giving up on large, central-city segments of hollowed-out (not "shrinking," a misnomer) metropolitan regions, demolishing vacant (and in some cases even occupied) building stock.  Proponents of this idea, who unfortunately have captured the attention of government and philanthropic institutions, believe the best response to the hollowing may be to create large urban farms and other open spaces where cities once stood.  As for the sprawling suburbs that have been the source of the drain of people and capital from the central cities?  That's someone else's problem, apparently.

As I pointed out in an earlier and somewhat controversial post, these metro regions have not been shrinking much if at all.  Metro Detroit, the poster child for these supposedly shrinking places, actually grew in population from 1990 to 2003; the population did decline between 2000 and 2008, but only by six-tenths of one percent.  The real problem is that the footprint of its suburbs was allowed to grow during that period, at the expense of the central city.  With demolition and conversion of urban land to neo-rural tracts, that pattern will only be exacerbated, with serious consequences for transportation emissions and the surrounding landscape.

Florida believes, as does Brandes Gratz (see this particularly well-reasoned article), that history teaches us that no good can come from urban demolition.  Florida also believes that Detroit actually has considerable creative-class assets to build a recovery upon.  Check out what he has to say:


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