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14, No. 1, pp. l-11, 1997 1997 Elsevier Science Ltd All rights reserved. Printed in Great Britain 0264-2751/97 $17.00 + 0.00

Cities, Vol.

Revitalization of the core city: the case of Detroit

John McCarthy
School of Town and Regional Planning, Dundee University, Dundee DD1 4HT, UK, e-mail:

Using the city of Detroit as an example, this paper examines the increasing forces of decentralization in the USA which have resulted in an increasing level of polarization between communities in the core city and those outside. This is proving harmful to both types of community, since those regions which are least polarized would seem to be the most successful. The city of Detroit is a prime example of such forces and processes, and, as a consequence, it has experienced a series of initiatives by local, state and federal governments aimed at ameliorating the effects of such processes. Moreover, the approach adopted has evolved significantly in recent decades. For instance, whilst the city initially concentrated on downtown 'flagship' developments, the latest strategy concentrates on a wider spread of benefits to be brought about by federal funding by means of an 'Empowerment Zone' in the city. This reflects a changing interpretation of the nature and effects of decentralization both by federal and local governments. However, the effective 'recentralization' of the city would seem to require a more integrated and long-term approach to land use planning at the national, state and local levels. 1997 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.


The policy of the US federal government in relation to urban revitalization has evolved significantly since the 1950s. In fact, several separate phases of policy evolution may be identified in relation to the different approaches of successive federal administrations. Such phases began with an emphasis on 'urban renewal' in the early 1950s, continued via a series of initiatives in the 1960s a part of the federal 'War on Poverty' programme, followed by an emphasis on partnerships for local economic development in the 1970s, and a 'new privatism' approach in the 1980s (Barnekov et al., 1989; Cullingworth, 1993). The latest phase is represented by the 'empowerment' agenda of the Clinton administration, as set out in the federal government's 1995 National Urban Policy Report. This latest phase is particularly significant in relation to Detroit, since the city has been designated an 'Empowerment Zone', involving federally-funded aid targeted on part of the core city. This article examines the nature and effects of revitalization policy in Detroit since the 1950s, in order

to reach some conclusions concerning the potential of the newly designated empowerment zone. In fact, the revitalization initiatives adopted in Detroit have been closely associated with the approaches of particular local agencies, such as the successive administrations of the city itself, rather than with the approaches of the federal administration. It would therefore seem appropriate to consider approaches to revitalization in the city in terms of the role of such agencies. Such a consideration is set out below, with regard to the roles of the previous city administration, the State of Michigan, the present city administration and an organization representing a regional grouping of local governments. This enables broad conclusions to be reached as to the potential contribution of the empowerment zone initiative to the revitalization of the core city. Firstly, however, it is necessary to consider the growth of Detroit in order to set the context for revitalization policy in the city.
Growth of Detroit In order to understand the nature of the forces which have brought about the present series of problems

Revitalization of Detroit: J McCarthy

faced by the core city of Detroit, the specific history of development of the city must first be considered. Detroit grew initially as a staging-post for the settlement of the northwest area of the USA, and the establishment of a railroad between Detroit and Chicago in 1848 provided the impetus for further growth. However, since Henry Ford's invention of the moving assembly line in 1915, the development of the city was inextricably linked with that of the automobile, and, in particular, the fortunes of the Ford, Chrysler and General Motors Corporations. Whilst Detroit quadrupled its population in only 20 years, from 285 000 at the turn of the century to over one million by 1921 (see Fig. 1), it is significant that General Motors chose to build its first headquarters away from the downtown area, at New Center (Garreau, 1991); this was followed by the relocation of Ford's production facilities from Highland Park, close to the city centre, to the then outlying area of Dearborn.

The forces of decentralization were thereby set in train, and, as Neill (1995a) indicates, new postwar automobile assembly plants were constructed on greenfield sites in suburban locations such as Warren, Ypsilanti, Wayne and Wixom. These trends accelerated in the late 1950s, when retail uses also moved out to the suburbs in huge numbers; in fact, Neill (1995a) suggests that the relocation from downtown of Kern's, Detroit's second largest department store, in 1959, was a crucial indicator of the intensifying pressures for decentralization. In the 1960s, large scale decentralization of office uses was to follow the trend, as indicated by the decision of the Ford Motor Com-

pany to build their new world headquarters in suburban Dearborn. In fact, the pressures for decentralization had been exacerbated by the incorporation of a series of new suburban cities in the Detroit area in the 1950s (Neill, 1995a). The consequences for the core city were a loss of tax revenue resulting particularly from the relocation of employment and service uses, as well as a general shift in population. So-called 'edge cities' on the outskirts of the city therefore became increasingly self-sufficient, with people more likely to commute between these areas than to the core city itself. Consequently the core city of Detroit entered a spiral of decay and disinvestment as it lost tax revenue, bringing a decline in services and an increasing concentration of poverty, and had to levy higher taxes on the remaining revenue sources. In fact, such a selfsustaining cycle of decline was common to cities throughout the USA, and was exacerbated in many cases by federal and state policies which encouraged urban expansion by subidising the costs of development on the urban fringe, for instance by federal interstate highway development and state infrastructure grant programmes (Cullingworth, 1993; SEMCOG, 1994).
Effects on the core city However, such factors would seem to have had more severe repercussions in the case of Detroit than in many other cities in the USA. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the tradition of 'home rule' within the state of Michigan fuelled the pressure for 'edge cities' to become independent of the core city, which has encouraged resistance to a regional









1940 Year






Figure 1 Total population 190~1990, city of Detroit Source: EmpowermentZone Transition Office (1995)

Revitalization of Detroit: J McCarthy

approach to issues of development and growth. Secondly, the sheer scale of decentralization, facilitated by the ease of access to the suburbs, and exacerbated by the example set by major employers such as the automobile manufacturers, has been particularly extreme in Detroit (see Fig. 2). Thirdly, one implication of the scale of decentralization in Detroit has been the increasing polarization of the populations of the suburbs and the core city. This has arisen from the selective nature of decentralization, since it has been those people who suffer from poverty or disadvantage who have been least likely to be able to move, resulting in an increasing concentration of poverty in the core city. Consequently, some 30% of the population of the core city of Detroit are suffering from poverty (US Department of Housing and Urban Development, 1995). Furthermore, the economic polarization of the core and suburban areas of Detroit is complicated by ethnic polarization (see Fig. 3). In fact, Neill suggests that Detroit represents "the prime exemplar of metropolitan spatial apartheid in the United States" (1995a, p 113). In fact evidence of discrimination suffered by the black population dates back to the 1940s, and a race riot in 1943 resulted in the death of 34 people. Despite the increase in interracial cooperation amongst civic, religious and labour organizations which was stimulated by the riot, many whites continued to resist the pressure for social and economic equality for blacks (Benyon and Solomos, 1987). This was reflected particularly in the segregation of housing in Detroit, which persisted even after the 1948 Supreme Court ruling against the enforcement of restrictive covenants in private housing (Benyon and Solomos, 1987). Moreover, partly because of the extent to which suburban and 'edge city' develop30 20

ments sometimes appeared to exclude blacks, the proportion of the city's population which was black grew to around 30% of the city's total in 1960 (Neill, 1995a). Evidence of direct discrimination against the black population continued to be prevalent in the 1950s, when allegations of discrimination in employment, housing and the police force were legion (Benyon and Solomos, 1987; Neill, 1995a). However, the introduction of new policies to redress the balance in favour of black people, instituted by the newly-elected Mayor Cavanagh in 1962, brought about a perception that Detroit had become a model city in the way in which racial problems had been circumvented (Neill, 1995a). In spite of some improvement in race relations, however, the continuation of discriminatory practices led to further riots in the city in the summer of 1967, in which 41 people were killed and 1 300 buildings destroyed (Neill, 1995a). One effect of this was the hastening of so-called 'white flight' from the city, thereby exacerbating the concentration of disadvantaged groups in the central core, the population of which was over 78% black in 1990 (Neill, 1995a). Moreover, Fainstein (1993) suggests that racism continues to be a major factor affecting cities such as the core city of Detroit, particularly in terms of access to housing, jobs and education.

Prestige 'Flagship' development: the city's role 1970-1993

It is now appropriate to consider the strategies and mechanisms adopted in Detroit to ameliorate the problems referred to above. The period of urban unrest in 1967 is significant in this respect, after which the relative economic position of the city



1970-1980 1980-1990

Figure 2 Populationchange 196~1990, city of Detroit and other major US cities

Source: Empowerment Zone Transition Office (1995)


Revitalization of Detroit: J McCarthy


.~--tii~ 40" 40~~


[] 1980


ii ~


o o

Figure 3 African-American population 1960-1990, city of Detroit and other major US cities
Source: Empowerment Zone Transition Office (1995)

declined considerably, as manufacturing, retail and service uses continued to decentralize (Neill, 1995a). Moreover, negative perceptions of the city were increased by the growing incidence of crimes such as homicide, and Detroit became known as 'murder city' in the early 1970s, prompting the city administration to focus on the problem of the city's image, both in terms of potential investors in the area as well as the citizens themselves. The continuing problems of discrimination against the black population led to the formation of the New Detroit Committee, including members from industry as well as local black militants, which aimed to address the causes of the 1967 riots (Benyon and Solomos, 1987). In addition, the creation in 1970 of Detroit Renaissance Inc, of leaders of major corporations in the region, was intended to bring about a further sense of corporate responsibility which, it was assumed, would lead to the physical and economic revitalization of the city (Neill, 1995a). This was followed by the election of a new Mayor, Coleman Young, in 1973, which led to a more explicit strategy for 'reimaging' the city by means of the encouragement of prestige development in the downtown area. Such a strategy, it was assumed, would stem the tide of disinvestment in favour of the suburbs, and a series of publicly sponsored downtown prestige 'flagship' developments were initiated as a result. The most impressive of these developments was the Detroit Renaissance Center, a mix of hotel, office and retail uses opened in 1977, which still dominates the waterfront skyline in Detroit. The 'Ren Cen', as it became known, was intended as to act as a new symbol for the revitalization of the city, and it was hoped that the scheme would act as a catalyst for new

investment in the city. The scheme was developed as a heavily-subsidized public-private partnership, and it was followed in 1978 by the setting-up of the nonprofit Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC), a body which subsequently led the City's programme for economic development. The board of directors of DEGC was appointed by the mayor, and was drawn in particular from Detroit Renaissance Inc. The DEGC was funded from both public and private sources, and it worked closely with the City's Community and Economic Development Department in leading the City's agenda for development (Neill, 1995a). Consequently, the City's planning department was marginalized in the process of revitalization, which amounted to a relatively opportunistic, projectled approach. This approach involved the provision of tax breaks and other incentives for large development projects which were pursued on an incremental basis. The city provided some subsidy, and, more importantly, the 1977 'Moving Detroit Forward' Plan proposed that $2.5 billion of federal development funds be allocated to the city over a 5-year period (Neill, 1995a). However, many proposals failed to get beyond the conceptual stage, including a subway proposal, a shopping center and a luxury residential complex. Nevertheless, projects developed during this period included the Joe Louis Sports Arena on the waterfront, which involved $46.6 million of city subsidy, a $31 million public plaza, and the addition of a further two towers to the Renaissance Center (Neill, 1995a). In conjunction with such physical developments, the City pursued a national campaign to improve its image. As Neill (1995a) indicates, however, such activity failed to halt the decentralization of population away from the core

Revitalization of Detroit: J McCarthy

city, and Detroit's share of regional employment continued to decline in the 1970s. Part of the explanation for this lies in the efforts that were being made to attract employment away from the core city, since many suburban areas established economic development corporations during this period, and these bodies were often successful in attracting further office uses in particular away from the core city (Neill, 1995a). Consequently, the 'prestige' development approach, geared towards the 'reimaging' of the city as the perceived key to economic regeneration, seems to have been largely ineffective in the 1970s. Nevertheless, the strategy continued into the 1980s, when a range of smaller projects were completed, including a new upmarket apartment building, Trolley Plaza, which was completed in 1981, and two multistorey residental apartment towers which were opened in 1985 on the riverfront west of the Renaissance Center. Such developments received 12 year property tax abatements as well as other public subsidies (Neill, 1995a). More significantly, the development of the Millender Center, comprising a 32 storey apartment tower with 340 units, together with adjoining hotel and retail space, was also completed in 1985. Of the $71 million cost of the project, $13 was provided by a federal Urban Development Action Grant, together with $25 million in other types of loan subsidy and grant from the City of Detroit (Neill, 1995a). Again, however, the aspirations of the developmentled strategy to turn around the process of disinvestment would not seem to have been achieved during this period, when many aspects of decline, particularly in manufacturing employment, continued. Moreover, the federal subsidy to the city declined substantially in the 1980s, and the federal government's share of Detroit's budget fell from 26% in 1980 to only 8% in 1991 (Neill, 1995a).

state's automobile industries, he supported an expanded programme of around 170 manufacturing extension services (Neill, 1995a, b). However, whilst such supply-side initiatives were intended to support manufacturing industry, the emphasis was on maintaining existing jobs rather than job creation (Neill, 1995b). Also, since such employment was increasingly located outside the core city, the extent to which benefits were conferred to the residents of the core city was limited. Furthermore, the ability of such initiatives to affect the competitive context of the automobile industry to a significant extent may be questioned, since by 1990 Japanese manufacturers claimed around one-third of the world market for motor vehicles (Neill, 1995b). In fact, of the 11 transplant assembly plants opened by Japanese firms in the lower Mid-west, Upper South and Canada from 1980 to 1995, only one was in Michigan; it would seem that the lesser union influence in areas such as Tennessee had proved more attractive to Japanese investors, who had combined a high level of automation with much greater worker flexibility (Neill, 1995b). Nevertheless, in 1992 southeast Michigan was still the location of 15 motor vehicle final assembly plants, and since 1990, Toyota, Nissan, Isuzu and Fiat have established new technical centres in the region (Neill, 1995b).

Empowerment: the city's role 1993 to the present day

In spite of all the initiatives adopted, directly or indirectly, to address the disadvantage faced by the core city of Detroit, in the 1980s the area lost over 175 000 people (Neill, 1995a). Whilst the number of manufacturing jobs in the region did not significantly increase, there was a significant growth in the service sector during this period, though such uses were increasingly concentrated in the suburbs. Consequently, the unemployment rate in the core city in 1987 grew to around 20%, as compared with only 6% for the region as a whole (Neill, 1995b). Nevertheless, the 'prestige' development-led approach of the Coleman Young administration continued until the election in 1993 of a new Mayor, Dennis Archer, who was elected on a platform of building a new partnership between the city and the suburban communities. This emphasis on partnership represented a response to allegations that the actions of Coleman Young had sometimes exacerbated antagonisms between these communities. The new Mayor also indicated support for a more planning-led approach to the evaluation of development opportunities, in contrast to the more opportunistic approach of the previous administration.
The Empowerment Zone One of the first initiatives of the new Mayor was therefore the application for Empowerment Zone designation for the city. This had been made possible by

Economic development: the role of the state of Michigan

A significant development in the early 1980s was the intensification of competition in the global automobile industry, which had serious implications for the major employers in the Detroit region. Consequently, seven of the Chrysler corporation's 15 production plants in the area were scheduled for closure between 1980 and 1983 (Neill, 1995a), partly as a result of the growing competition from Japan. This issue was addressed by the new Democratic State Governor in 1983, who followed a strategy of supporting manufacturing industry in the State, rather than relying on the development of service employment to meet the employment needs of the region. The Governor therefore initiated a series of research-based activities to support 'economic base' or import-substituting industries such as automobile manufacturing (Neill, 1995b). While the new Republican Governor in 1991 emphasized the importance of cutting spending budgets rather than improving the competitiveness of the

Revitalization of Detroit: J McCarthy

the introduction of a nationwide competition for federal funding by the Clinton administration. This competition was open to both urban and rural areas, and involved the designation of Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities (Hambleton, 1995). The federal government announced that 104 areas would be designated in total, including six urban Empowerment Zones, each of which would be allocated $100 million to use for a strategic programme of economic, environmental and social improvements. Whilst the selection of the 'winning' areas was to be based partly on the extent to which bids presented a realistic but imaginative programme for strategic, communitybased regeneration, the federal government indicated that strict criteria in relation to the nature of the bid area were to form the basis for selection. Such criteria included the proposed total land area of the zone and levels of poverty within the area, and, in addition, the proposed programme had to demonstrate a high degree of community involvement in both the formulation and initiation of the strategy. The legislation for the Empowerment Zone competition was approved in August 1993, and the competition was launched in January 1994 (Hambleton, 1995), coinciding with the period when Mayor Archer was inaugurated in Detroit. In fact, the introduction of Empowerment Zones by the Clinton administration formed part of a wider 'Community Empowerment Agenda', as set out in the National Urban Policy Report produced in July 1995 by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, entitled 'Empowerment: A New Covenant With America's Communities'. This reported reflected a shift in the political context for urban policy, as well as the availability of new research which linked the fortunes of central cities and their suburbs. It acknowledged the extent and force of decentralization, as indicated by the growth of so-called 'edge cities', which often represented the fastest-growing areas of city regions. In particular, the report highlighted the increasing disparities between the core and peripheral populations of city regions throughout the USA. Such disparities, it suggested, had been increased by the direct and indirect discrimination of both low-income and minority groups, particularly in terms of access to housing, with the result that "poor minority communities in the central city . . . have become increasingly isolated from the opportunities and prosperity of their metropolitan regions, the nation, and the emerging global economy" (US Department of Housing and Urban Development, 1995, p 10). The report therefore highlighted the increasing concentration of poverty in central cities, and it singled out the city of Detroit as having a particularly high incidence of poverty in the central area, where 30.2% of the population were estimated to be suffering from poverty, as opposed to the surrounding suburbs, where the corresponding figure was estimated at only 6.2% (ibid, p 11). It acknowledged the selfsustaining nature of decentralizing forces, which brought about a "downward spiral of poverty concentration and fiscal distress" (ibid, p 13), and it suggested that the momentum of such forces implied that the only way to halt the process was by means of large-scale federal action. This represented a clear shift in political priorities away from the prevailing laissez-faire, or 'new privatism' approach of the federal government in the 1980s. Part of the rationale for the new approach, the report suggested, was the availability of new research which linked the growth of cities to that of regions as a whole. It indicated that there are several reasons for such an effect, as follows. Firstly, the growth of new 'edge cities' results in increasing competition for investment between existing suburbs, with the result that some older suburbs are affected by the 'downward spiral' which was so marked in the central areas of cities. Secondly, the physical decline of central cities could have a widespread effect on metropolitan development, since the poor image of the central city may serve to dissuade investors from investing in the wider region. Thirdly, many sectors of metropolitan economies still benefited from the dense clusters of economic activity found in the central city. As a result of such factors, the report suggested that "considerable research now documents strong statistical relationships between metropolitan economic performance and city-suburban disparities . . . more specifically, employment grew most where income disparities were lowest" (ibid, p 15). Whilst it acknowledged the lack of a demonstrable causal connection, it showed that there were strong reasons to believe that federal grant aid to improve the opportunities for those living in central cities could also bring benefits for communities in suburbs and 'edge cities'. This view would also appear to have been adopted by the new city administration in Detroit in 1994, which was committed to bringing about a new consensus between the city and its suburbs. The federal government's report also reflected a shift in approach in favour of the involvement of the local community in planning for regeneration, and it was stressed that this approach must be reflected in bids for Empowerment Zone status. Consequently, the new city administration in Detroit decided that half of the membership of the Zone's Co-ordinating Council, which formulated the city's strategic programme for the bid, should consist of community representatives, and such representatives were subsequently selected at public meetings held throughout the zone. The remaining members of the Council comprised representatives of local, state and county government, health and human services, business, education and the religious community. A series of meetings of the Co-ordinating Council was undertaken to determine the city's strategy, and six priority topic areas were identified, namely business/economic development, education/training, housing, health/human services, environment/physical infrastructure, and public

Revitalization of Detroit: J McCarthy

safety. Consequently, separate Task Forces of the Coordinating Council were subsequently set up to consider recommendations for programmes in each of these topic areas; their recommendations were then brought back to the Co-ordinating Council, which subsequently produced a comprehensive Strategic Plan for the Zone. wide at its widest point, and which incorporated 18.35 square miles (Empowerment ZoneTransition Office, 1995). Significantly, the population density within the Zone, at 5 521 people per square mile, was less than the 7 410 people per square mile for the city as a whole, reflecting the inclusion in the Empowerment Zone area of large areas of land used for industrial and other no-residential uses. In fact, not only was the Empowerment Zone bid successful, but it was judged by the federal government to be the best technical bid for Empowerment Zone status of any US city. The total population within the Zone is 101 279, of whom 67% are African-American. Forty-seven per cent of the residents of the Zone are estimated to live in poverty (see Fig. 5), with a median family income in the zone of only $9 870, compared with $18 740 for the city as a whole (Empowerment Zone Transition Office, 1995). The unemployment rate in the Zone, at 29%, is 50% higher than the rate for the city, and the zone contains a high proportion of the city's elderly and homeless people. In addition, the infant mortality rate in the Zone is double the national rate, deaths from alcoholism are about three times the national average, and deaths from drug abuse are over

Formulation of the bid However, this participative approach to urban revitalization in Detroit was difficult to achieve in practice. The determination of the Empowerment Zone boundary was particularly controversial because of the desire of many areas to be included, and it was also difficult to reach agreement on the nature of specific benefits to be sought inside the Zone. The legacy of distrust by the community of the city authorities clearly contributed to such difficulties; however, after the meetings of the Co-ordinating Council to determine the exact nature of the bid, a degree of consensus was reached about both the bid area and the proposed benefits. The final Empowerment Zone boundary (see Fig. 4), drawn to include the city's most deprived urban areas, consequently comprised an area which was some 12.5 miles long and 4 miles


f . ,,"



Total Population in Zone....... 101,279 Square Miles of Zone ............ 18.35 ~" Not Included in Zone

Figure 4 Boundaries and area of the Detroit Empowerment Zone Source: EmpowermentZone Transition Office(1995)

Revitalization of Detroit." J McCarthy

k~ W O.TM LE






0-19% [ ' - - ] ]

2o-2, [ ] 1 2,-3,% IN! I 3, aodABOVE ! I


* Non-Residential Tract ** Not included in Zone

Total Population in Zone ....... 101,279 Square Miles of Zone ............ 18.35

Figure 5 Detroit Empowerment Zone, percentage of population in poverty Source: EmpowermentZone Transition Office (1995)

seven times the national rate. In physical terms, more than one in six of the housing units in the Zone are vacant (see Fig. 6), compared with only one in twelve for the city as a whole (Empowerment Zone Transition Office, 1995).

Bid proposals The proposals for the zone include over 80 projects, and the $100 million of federal funds is to be used to implement 49 of these. The resulting projects are intended to improve the quality of life for residents of the Zone, and they include schemes for job training, neighbourhood development, youth recreation and homeless intervention. However, around 9 000 businesses also exist in the Zone, and specific benefits for such businesses are available, including increased availability of financing, free assistance for business advice, and tax incentives. A particularly important project within the Zone is a proposed One-Stop Capital Shop, which is to provide information and assistance to local businesses which require help in starting-up or expanding their business, and two outreach centres will provide an additional advice service to

local businesses (Empowerment Zone Transition Office, 1995). However, a range of other benefits have also been brought about within the Zone as a result of Empowerment Zone designation. For instance, additional private sector commitments of $1.9 million have been made, including a commitment of loans totalling $1 billion from a consortium of 13 area financial institutions. In addition, the Chrysler Corporation has announced its intention to invest $750 million in a new plant, and General Motors plans to invest $200 million in the expansion of its existing plant in the Zone. Furthermore, investment by non-profit organizations is also planned to form a major element of the benefits to be conferred by Empowerment Zone status. One such organization which plans to make a substantial contribution in the zone is Core City Neighborhoods, Inc, a non-profit, tax exempt, community-based organization which aims to aid the physical and economic regeneration of the core city of Detroit. An example of the type of benefits which it proposes in the Zone is the scheme proposed for the Martin Luther King Boulevard Development

Revitalization of Detroit: J McCarthy



5-9% [ ] 10-12% [ ] 13 and ,M3OVE% l

CiTY OF D~TROFr ~ D ~ A R ~ K~y.~p

Total Population in Zone....... 101,279 Square Miles of Zone............ 18.35

Figure 6 Detroit Empowerment Zone, percentage of housing units which are vacant
Source: Empowerment Zone Transition Office (1995)

Area. This 300 acre area contains a population of 1 921 people who are amongst the most disadvantaged in the Detroit Empowerment Zone, since 38% of the potential labour force in the Development Area are unemployed, 61% of residents are suffering from poverty, and 36% are receiving public assistance. In physical terms, 19% of housing units are vacant, and the median housing value is only $11 000 (Core City Neighborhoods, Inc, 1995). However, the organization proposes to develop a comprehensive and integrated development in this area, incorporating an 18 acre retail centre, single- and multiple-family homes, a senior citizen mid-rise housing complex, a regional community centre and an industrial park. The scheme is planned to be developed in four phases, and it is anticipated that it will serve as a model for future developments within the Empowerment Zone area.

Partnership: the role of S E M C O G

Of course, the extent to which the benefits arising from the Empowerment Zone in Detroit can turn around the long-term decline of the core city remains uncertain, and this underlines the importance of the wider 'Community Empowerment Agenda' of the

federal government. In fact, the conclusions of the federal government, in terms of the linked interests of core cities and their suburbs, have been endorsed by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), a voluntary association of governmental units in Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne Counties. In a policy document entitled 'Revitalising Urban Communities: an Action Strategy', produced by the Urban Enhancement Task Force of SEMCOG's Community and Economic Advisory Council, it is acknowledged that the compounding process of disinvestment in the core city is disadvantaging the region as a whole. Concurring with the conclusions of the federal government, the report suggests that the economic growth of cities and their suburbs are positively correlated, so that "declining cities are associated with slow-growing suburbs" (SEMCOG, 1994). Consequently, the policy document suggests that the encouragement of investment in physical, public service and human resource infrastructure, in areas suffering from disinvestment, is necessary to enhance the competitiveness and economic health of the region as a whole. The key to bringing this about, it suggests, is the encouragement of enhanced cooperation betwen the city and sur-

Revitalization o f Detroit: J McCarthy

rounding areas, in order to facilitate the development of an effective state infrastructure strategy. In physical terms, it suggests that this could focus development incentives on the core city, and it seems clear that such an approach could complement the federal action focused on the Detroit Empowerment Zone. However, as Neill (1995a) points out, the effective cooperation of the local governments in this region runs counter to the "strong Jeffersonian tradition of home rule local governance in Michigan, employed at present to legitimize suburban class and racial privilege, racial polarisation and continued sprawl" (1995a, p 155). Nevertheless, perhaps the approach of enlightened self-interest encouraged by both the federal and SEMCOG policy documents would seem to offer a potential solution to continued decentralization, but this is not to underestimate the entrenched nature of the problem; as the SEMCOG report declares: The process of disinvestment and decentralisation began in very small pockets of communities. It has now grown, in some cases, to consume entire cities. Urban degradation will continue to grow until the region collectively decides to engage it. And its growth will continue to exact a cost, either directly or indirectly, on every resident of Southeast Michigan. (1994, p 7)

Whilst the extent of the polarisation of the core city and the suburban areas of Detroit is perhaps untypical of many American cities (Neill, 1995a) similar processes of disinvestment and decay are being felt in cities throughout the country. Indeed, Robertson (1995) notes that the American downtown has steadily declined since the 1920s. Of course, as has been shown, the countervailing forces of decentralization are extremely strong, and Shore (1995) indicates that there is an urgent need for policies aimed at radical recentralization of cities so as to avoid the continued exclusion of disadvantaged groups in the core city from the benefits enjoyed by others. He therefore endorses the arguments of Neill (1995a) in relation to Detroit, suggesting that the de facto segregation of African-Americans mainly in the core city has deprived them of opportunities and services, partly because the increasing concentration of poverty in such areas has reduced the power of the local community, a factor which has hastened the removal of vital services. Shore suggests that a policy of recentralization would not only alleviate such problems, but would also lead to more effective use of resources by maximizing the efficiency of available infrastructure such as roads and schools. Of course, the forces which such a policy must overcome are formidable, since so-called 'edge cities' are becoming increasingly self-sufficient. Moreover, whilst the role of government at the local, state and

national levels may play a role in slowing down the process of decentralization, this role has been fraught with contradictions, since the federal government has often encouraged the decentralization process by providing subsidies for infrastructure (Cullingworth, 1993; Shore, 1995), as acknowledged by the Clinton administration. A lack of growth controls has also facilitated the spread of cities, and local governments have therefore played a role in indirectly encouraging the decline of downtown areas. Of course, the argument may be made that decentralization simply reflects consumer choice, and is therefore in the interests of the effective operation of the development market; however, Shore (1995) shows that the decisions of local governments reflect relatively shortterm concerns, and such decisions may not in fact be in the best long-term interests of the areas concerned. These factors point to the need for more effective land-use planning and infrastructure provision at the metropolitan level, and the potential for cooperation between local governments in strategic planning has been highlighted by SEMCOG's proposals. However, the lack of progress of such cooperation in the past must cast doubt on its potential for the future, particularly in the light of the tradition of self-government in the State of Michigan, the corresponding difficulty of bringing about a redistributive policy, and the recent growth of relatively self-contained 'edge cities'. These factors suggest that the Empowerment Zone initiative, whilst valuable, can only have a major revitalization impact as part of a series of linked initiatives at the local, state and federal levels, coupled with a more integrated, longer-term approach to land use policy. As Shore (1995) suggests: The ultimate goal should be a national urban policy within which states or metropolitan regions plan, and within which counties and municipalities plan and control land use. All this planning should aim at recentralizing activities in metropolitan and local centers and then building communities around those centers. (p 502) Only such concerted action, it would seem, can provide any hope of forestalling the pressures for decentralization and social polarization in Detroit.

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Revitalization of Detroit: J McCarthy

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