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YP perspective: regional planning as a way to attract talent.

The city of Detroit has recently been described as the "poster child" for the post-industrial city of the United States. Such a moniker tends to draw national attention to a city (welcome to Detroit, TIME Magazine!). All of that attention has prompted everyone from political figures to planning experts to come up with solutions for the city of Detroit. Many of these solutions have never been attempted on a large scale (e.g. urban farming), positioning Detroit to be the testing grounds for new planning techniques--and may lead the way in understanding what it takes to retain young talent.


The consensus is that Detroit has the landmass to support more than double its population and that the city must be downsized and consolidated to support itself. The idea of downsizing (which even the Mayor agrees with) creates an interesting situation where Detroit can become a clean slate to correct its mistakes. With a clean slate, we should do things correctly this time. To do so, it must remove the thorn that has been in its side for years: the lack of regional planning.

The idea of regional planning is not new and has been successfully adopted by a few major metropolitan regions (e.g. Minneapolis). The Detroit region has struggled to adopt this idea because of longstanding territorial disputes between the city and its inner-ring suburbs. The Detroit region is one of the only regions in the U.S. that allows its suburbs to opt out of public transit services. This is a prime example of the disconnect between the city and its suburbs, and it must be mended in order for the region to survive.

Can we actually convince the region to get on board with the idea of planning at the regional level? George Galster, Distinguished Professor of Urban Affairs at Wayne State University, thinks it is our only chance at success. "The city of Detroit ultimately will not survive and the region will therefore not thrive unless a regional plan is created that limits development at the fringe and directs it toward the core," says Galster. Many planning experts share this opinion on the Detroit region, but it still has yet to be accepted by the region's geopolitical entities.

If the suburbs cannot accept the possibility of land use planning at the regional level, perhaps they can start by regionalizing at a smaller scale. Dr. Robin Boyle, chair of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at Wayne State University, expresses the type of small-scale regional planning that may have success in the Detroit region and show the suburbs how beneficial it is. "It is unlikely we will see coordinated land use planning in the foreseeable future," said Boyle, "but [many other regional planning organizations] are gaining traction, such as Michigan Suburbs Alliance, Automation Alley and the Woodward Avenue Action Association." Organizations such as these can be very effective at initiating regional cooperation and may pave the way for future large-scale regional planning efforts.

Daniel Beard is a recent graduate and former intern at the Detroit Regional Chamber.

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Author:Beard, Daniel
Geographic Code:1U3MI
Date:Mar 1, 2010
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