Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Flint, Meet Inner Mongolia

When it comes to abandonment, Flint has plenty of kindred spirits, including Ordos in Inner Mongolia. David Barboza of The New York Times reports:
Ordos proper has 1.5 million residents. But the tomorrowland version of Ordos — built from scratch on a huge plot of empty land 15 miles south of the old city — is all but deserted.

Broad boulevards are unimpeded by traffic in the new district, called Kangbashi New Area. Office buildings stand vacant. Pedestrians are in short supply. And weeds are beginning to sprout up in luxury villa developments that are devoid of residents.

“It’s pretty lonely here,” says a woman named Li Li, the marketing manager of an elegant restaurant in Kangbashi’s mostly vacant Lido Hotel. “Most of the people who come to our restaurant are government officials and their guests. There aren’t any common residents around here.”

City leaders, cheered on by aggressive developers, had hoped to turn Ordos into a Chinese version of Dubai — transforming vast plots of the arid, Mongolian steppe into a thriving metropolis. They even invested over $1 billion in their visionary project.

But four years after the city government was transplanted to Kangbashi, and with tens of thousands of houses and dozens of office buildings now completed, the 12-square-mile area has been derided in the state-run newspaper China Daily as a “ghost town” monument to excess and misplaced optimism.


  1. Like in that movie Field of Dreams. Somebody heard the quote "if you build it, they will come". The same foolish assumption that brought us Autoworld.

  2. Urban abandonement (especially more moderately sized cities) the world over is at epidemic proportions. I have often wondered that these former urban hubs have not somehow banded together and collaborate on international solutions to problems so many of these cities face. Choibalsan in Mongolia is anoteh great example from this part of the world, maybe Flint should target a couple of these locations as "sister cities" and start the process this way.


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 www.teardownbook.com.