Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why Not Just Close Parts of Flint?

One particular solution to Flint's woes has come up repeatedly in conversations I've had with friends, urban planners, economists and drunk guys in bars. Sometimes they are kidding, sometimes not. The solution? Shut down entire sections of the city and concentrate the population and the city's meager resources in the areas that are still "open."

It's an interesting urban planning question, but what happens when the mayor of Flint suggests the same thing?

Kristen Longley of The Flint Journal reports:
Temporary Mayor Michael Brown made the off-the-cuff suggestion Friday in response to a question at a Rotary Club of Flint luncheon about the thousands of empty houses in Flint.

Brown said that as more people abandon homes, eating away at the city's tax base and creating more blight, the city might need to examine "shutting down quadrants of the city where we (wouldn't) provide services."

He did not define what that could mean -- bulldozing abandoned areas, simply leaving the vacant homes to rot or some other idea entirely.
Don't laugh. Youngstown, Ohio is already putting the plan into action. And as this article in American City & County shows, Flint officials have been observing the former steel town's progress. Go here to listen to an NPR podcast on Youngstown's attempt to downsize gracefully.


  1. I have some interesting comments on this over at my blog.

  2. ...just as long as they don't shut down the part with all o' the college students, Brazilian steakhouses, organic markets, coffee shops, boutiques, bistros, and bars & grills.

    First, ethnically cleanse the black parts, let nature cleanse the bacteria, and then build some condos or yuppie pods or whatever abode the elusive white professional prefers.

    Future Flint will be awesome just as soon as the Northend (and Eastside and Westside and...)is covered in vines and weeds and kudzu and deer and beavers and elk and... it'll be like a nature preserve for the loft-livin' creative class downtown.

  3. I thought they already had abandoned parts of the city! I drove through the north end of Flint last summer and past my old duplex at Proctor and Patterson. The city had done absolutely no mowing, and the place had the feel of a ghost town! So maybe getting the bull dozers out and letting part of the city go back to the forest isn't such a bad idea.

  4. I've suggested the same regarding Detroit for years. 1/3 of the land area of Detroit is vacant lots anyway.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at