The most frustrating thing for urbanists is that there is so little rhyme or reason to how the city disposes of these buildings. With no plan for replacement, the creeping creation of vacant lots in the name of “much needed” parking or blight removal is insidious.Detroitist Francis Grunow has written a very interesting plea for a comprehensive redevelopment strategy -- what I think you would call urban planning -- in the midst of Detroit's demolition free-for-all. Without at all denying the need for urban triage in a shrinking city like Detroit, he argues for "the repositioning of the city’s core assets, its undervalued anchors, as the urban basis for revival and long-term regeneration".
One of the bases, the anchors, is the incredibly beautiful and incredibly threatened Michigan Central Station,
designed by the same architects who designed Grand Central Terminal. Detroit plans to "use economic stimulus money to demolish Michigan Central and stick the gratuitously negligent billionaire owner, Matty Moroun, with the bill"
Random questions that aren't completely rhetorical:
- why is demolition of neglected private property considered an acceptable governmental responsibility but moth-balled maintenance is never, even when the plan is to force a billionaire to pay up?
- what's wrong with treating urban anchors as visual and monumental rather than economic anchors, especially if we're talking about low demand real-estate? Monumental anchors give a city body and presence.
Even as monuments, you can't let the street front die, but can you mothball the tops without having to mothball the bottom?
- Is there such a thing as phased renovations of major buildings like you see with the Phase I, Phase II of suburban developments? Could you "subdivide" major buildings?
- Why can't a municipality pay for modern infrastructural improvements like electricity and plumbing in a dense urban renovation like they do for new roads, sewers, electricity and water in suburban developments. The former might make greater economic sense.
- Will a full-blown urbanist movement emerge, in the mode and possibly from the ranks of the preservationist and environmental movements, with the same willingness to fight for its principles? Or has it already emerged?