Detroit has been fascinating me lately. Representing promise for young people of America and with home/land prices extraordinarily cheap (a foreclosed house will only set you back $25!However,if you want a house with windows you’ll have to fork out $1000) people have begun flocking into what was a once great city.
So why this huge metamorphosis you may ask? The answer lies both in Detroit’s industries and lower/middle class.
Most will know that Ford, Chrysler, GM and American Motors were all founded in Detroit. The factories employed a huge class of people from the early 20th century onward. America’s auto boom created a sprawling suburbia housing the thousands of people employed in the automotive industry(who earned the highest mean income in America at the time.fact).
While this worked swimmingly for decades, problems started for Detroit in the post-war period. The invention of automation,various oil crisis and high production costs began to impact Detroit’s factories.Bailouts failed to make a impact and a gradual lay-off of jobs began in the 70s and heightened into the 90s. Workers were no longer in the high income positions of the past. Slowly, the population began to abandon Detroit(the population at the height of the boom was estimated at near 2 million, post GFC it was around 700,000). Those who stayed, lucky to find work at all, held on as the landscape around them shifted.
Increasingly residents found their neighbourhood blocks emptying, houses around them began falling into disrepair. ’urban prairies’ began to form as buildings simply disappeared back into the land. Grand architectural masterpieces of a by-gone time were neglected. Those who could afford it moved into the city (which experienced a renascence of it’s own in the 90s as people moved in).
The GFC was the straw that broke Detroit’s back. The car companies that were hanging onto their homeland plants for no sake other than integrity and heritage had no choice to close them down. Thousands more workers packed up and shipped out, often facing financial problems of their own.
Detroit sat at a crossroads for a little while, the suburbs near abandoned, waiting for a new chance and for someone to give it the new life it deserved.
Meanwhile, people who had stayed in Detroit capitalised on the space they had gained. Empty blocks were transformed into gardens for both financial/food security and as a way of utilising the space.
Within a few months Urban Farming took off. Anyone who had a block of land next to them for sale could essentially propagate very quickly it since it had already been cleared. Land was going cheap, making it a viable financial option from young people to new migrants.Pretty soon businesses were buying up the land to start farms and employing displaced factory workers(don’t fret,these aren’t huge businesses, they are strongly encouraging Detroit’s urban farming be used to secure food for citizens in the region).
This is only the beginning of Detroit’s rebirth but early on Urban Farming looks on track to become a very successful program for a struggling nation. America currently dealing with a plethora of problems, regaining financial ground, dealing with carbon emissions well as feeding it’s citizens. As a representation of the physical decline of a post-consumer world Detroit shows we can be optimistic as to what the future can offer. Thanks Detroit for being our blank slate.