My first post for Global Site Plans was published in January. I was eager to write for The Grid, and treated it as an opportunity to explore the urban planning issues and interface with those involved in Ann Arbor and Detroit, Michigan. In that first post I asked, “What are some more balanced revitalization proposals for Detroit in 2013?” and even managed to garner some early controversy on the respectful inclusion of all citizens. I like to think conversations like these are relevant to the posts I've been writing all year.
As a student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, some of my writing has focused on student sustainability efforts and the ways in which students can participate in their new, albeit temporary, towns. I loved highlighting the buses that are available to students to explore campus, Ann Arbor, and even head to Detroit. I'm inspired by my fellow students who work to promote sustainable transportation on campus and in Ann Arbor through bike education and bike-share programs, or those who started a new political party in Ann Arbor advocating mixed-use zoning!
Transportation was also a major interest of mine in the Detroit context. With so much attention being placed on the city in the national and international media, and the nickname of “Motor City,” I was especially interested in highlighting some alternative transportation gaining traction in Detroit. Think about what the M-1 light rail project in downtown, that recently started construction, means for the future of public transit in Detroit, and leave your thoughts on bicycling in this 139-square-mile city.
Finally, writing for The Grid helped me realize where my true passions lie as an aspiring urban planner: facilitating the way in which citizens can engage with their built environment. I enjoyed engaging with Detroiters, funding mini-grants over soup and experiencing public art in downtown Grand Rapids. Even seemingly simple ideas, like urban farming, are causing huge shifts in the urban fabric and the way we interact with neighbors and plan our own environments.
Cities in Southeast Michigan, and others across the nation, are plagued by pessimism concerning their futures, but the vibrancy of cities continues to inspire me. Cities are not just the transportation, zoning, or economic development decisions, but the people who advocate for change on the issues. We could all benefit from adopting the City of Detroit’s motto in our own organizing work: Speramus meliora, Resurget cineribus (“We hope for better things, It shall rise from the ashes”).
Credits: Image of author by Swati Sudarsan. Image of Detroit skyline by author, Meg Mulhall. Data linked to sources.