02.06.14

The Challenge of Vast Empty Spaces. One of the most daunting challenges to any long-term hopes for recovery in Detroit is how to address its vast empty spaces where the decades long atrophy of population today means that some 125,017 residential parcels are unoccupied and cost the city not just $173 million in lost property tax revenues, but also enormous costs to provide public services—especially for public safety. Detroit, one of the largest cities by land area in the U.S. today features 10,950 acres of vacant land or 12.3% of its total size. Publicly owned parcels represent 42% of this citywide vacancy and amount to 5,900 acres (55% of total vacant acres and 6.6% of city area). In our report on Detroit, we noted that absent some change in its geographical dimensions, any long term recovery and vibrancy would be unlikely. So it is that this morning Laura Berman, of the Detroit News, hints at some hope (See: “Urban forest planned for Detroit’s east side inches upward” http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140206/METRO/302060053/Urban-forest-planned-Detroit-s-east-side-inches-upward), writing that Mike Score, an agricultural expert at Michigan State University, and the president of Hantz Woodlands, last week hand-delivered a $431,000 check to the city to purchase vacant land that will become a mini-forest, an urban forest, in one of Detroit’s most depressed areas — an area of about a square mile on the city’s lower east side: the world’s largest urban farm. Continue reading