We've Moved

Ecology of Absence now resides at www.preservationresearch.com. Please change your links and feeds.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Detroit Park Sale Plan is Hasty

The administration of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is proposing selling off 92 of the city's 367 parks. Most of the parks on the sale list are pocket parks and small playgrounds, many of which are surrounded by vacant lots and some of which are in severe disrepair. Kilpatrick seems to think that some of the park sites would be ripe for new development. The plan raises the issue of public space planning in deindustrialized cities. The amount of park space in Detroit reflects peak density that has not existed in decades. Does the city need so much park space when so much of the city itself is green ghetto land?

Maybe not. Detroit is seeing redevelopment right now. Kilpatrick's interest in selling the parks shows confidence in their having some market value as lots. The city has shrunk, but as it grows it may need the parks. While there are many of the 92 parks that probably will never be useful, there are some that are useful now and would be useful in neighborhoods where infill construction will lead to higher density. Staking out public space now will ensure that neighborhoods don't lack amenities that belong to all residents.

Detroit might consider holding off on a massive sale, and releasing the parks one by one after further community input and investigation of development activity. Perhaps some parks should just be mothballed -- infrastructure demolished and grass planted. One thing we learn from cities like Detroit is the inherent power of a vacant urban lot. From the vacant lots will spring the development of the future -- and public space needs to be part of that.


Chris said...

I'll have to admit I'm a little suspicious of all those pocket parks that seemed to pop in the 1960's and 70's. I lived near one in DC, and quite frankly, I never saw any children playing in it--ever. It was largely an unkempt area where local alcoholics and drug addicts gathered.

If Detroit keeps these pocket parks, it MUST have a plan in place to keep these parks available for the use of law-abiding children--and their parents.

Perhaps it would be better to focus on the larger, more historic parks that are within a slightly longer walking distance.

Anonymous said...

Detroit needs to do anything and everything to spark development in the city and keep it going. The city and the state of Michigan are in total panic mode. Whatever the city of Detroit needs to do to attract activity needs to be done.

George Jackson said...

There was a more recent article on this a few days ago in the NY Times. "Detroit considers sale of City's small parks"

I have to say that the city's recreation department proposal seems logical in terms of fiscal demands. By concentrating parks and recreation in neighborhoods that are more likely to utilize them makes sense to me. The city should take any funds made from land sales and reinvest in good or mediocre city parks and make them GREAT parks. I would rather have a dozen great parks than 100 crappy ones.

I comment more on this on my blog http://bicepbulletin.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

nice post on detroit check http://www.steelwedge.com