Friday, April 01, 2011

Famous/Infamous Michigan Sprawl Letter and Discussion On Rustwire

My personal "mission" on this blog was not just to hype the local art scene in Pittsburgh itself, but also spark awareness, debate across the wider region about ways to create and sustain a better quality of life. The former Rust Belt, is filled with areas that are spreading out dramatically, even as their populations shrink.

Michigan is pretty far, but a letter from a figure at a successful law firm that operates there has gone viral, triggering, I hope some relevant conversation.
The letter's specific topic deals with what the writer sees as the negative effects of suburban sprawl on the firm's business outlook and ability to recruit and retain employees.

Recession or no, isn’t it screamingly obvious that people with choices in life – i.e. people with money and education – choose not to live here? We are becoming a place where people without resources are grudgingly forced to live. A place without youth, prospects, respect, money or influence.

There’s a simple reason why many people don’t want to live here: it’s an unpleasant place because most of it is visually unattractive and because it is lacking in quality living options other than tract suburbia. Some might call this poor “quality of life.” A better term might be poor “quality of place.” In Metro Detroit, we have built a very bad physical place. We don’t have charming, vibrant cities and we don’t have open space.

The letter which was originally addressed to the city leaders of Troy Michigan goes pretty far in depth.

Also, the author helped create this video, offering the start of a tangible plan to better organise and link Detroit and it's northern suburbs through light rail.

One thing I like about both is that they go far beyond just denying the suburbs and smaller towns and cities exist and demanding that everyone move back into Detroit. As the video shows, some of these places have long and unique histories, beautiful buildings and even sound original street designs dating from the pre auto age. Many also happen to line up along a corridor making it possible to connect them with a single rail link.

James Howard Kunstler dedicated an entire podcast to the sprawl letter.

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