Friday, March 25, 2011

Could Detroit Disappear?

The Week: Any visitor to Detroit can tell the city is wasting away, with vast swaths of empty lots and dilapidated houses across the once-proud metropolis. But new data from the 2010 Census makes it official: The population of the Motor City has plummeted to its lowest point in 100 years. The city lost one-fourth of its residents, about 237,500 people, in the last 10 years — which amounts to about one person every 22 minutes. At this astonishing rate of decline, can Detroit really hope to exist for much longer?

Detroit is doomed: How can Detroit hope to recover from this? asks Douglas A. MacIntyre at 24/7 Wall St. It has almost no tax base, few social services, a threadbare infrastructure, and "no enticements to bring new businesses back to town." It would cost "tens of billions of dollars" to help Detroit — money that the federal government is unable and unwilling to spend. "The city's wastelands will never go away." In time, they may be all that's left.

Detroit can survive as a smaller city: There is a solution to Detroit's plight, says an editorial in the Detroit Free Press. We must convince residents to move to areas "that still have solid population bases," produce a "credible plan to abandon the infrastructure in other areas," and give them up to farmland. We are a "fundamentally changed city" now. Time to start acting like one.

Other cities have recovered from disaster: Look on the bright side, says Laura Parker at AOL News. Although Detroit's recovery may "face long odds," cities have bounced back before. Pittsburgh, for example, has reinvented itself as a "healthcare and high technology hub" since the steel industry collapsed. If it can attract a replacement to the depleted auto industry, Detroit could have a future yet.

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