In February 2012, I wrote a post called Assessing the Damage: Preserving Detroit, Michigan’s Historical Places, describing the delicate balance between restoration and demolition. Incorporating preservation efforts into Detroit Michigan’s priorities is vital, but there will always be the reality of budget cuts, insufficient public services, community needs, and generally, too little, too late.
Detroit has experienced a great deal of abandonment over the last 60 years, which has led to neglect and eventually demolition. Without consistent maintenance and security, the buildings fall victim to vandalism and arson, leaving the interior architecture exposed to the elements. Traversed by urban explorers, tagged by graffiti artists, inhabited by undesirables, the buildings have no defense, except collapse.
While restoration of abandoned factories, warehouses, and institutional buildings is sustainable, it is a costly undertaking which requires significant structural engineering. Urban planners have numerous considerations to make during master plan revision. While demolition can also be costly, the benefits of knocking down what has essentially deteriorated into an eyesore greatly out-weigh the costs.
Designed by prominent Michigan architect, Albert Kahn, in 1903, the Packard Plant was once one of the largest automotive manufacturing plants in the world. Detroiters have mixed feelings about the news. Another piece of Motor City history lost, though regrettably, it’s been past saving for some time.
The Brewster Projects and Fredrick Douglass Apartments were completed between 1935 and 1955; established by the Detroit Housing Commission to accommodate the “working poor.” A mix of low and high-rise buildings, the complex envelops 15 city blocks. Safety has become a major concern, and the city looks to develop the property as a mixed-use, affordable housing, urban-style development.
Hopefully, preservation efforts will encourage the city to recognize revitalization opportunities sooner. In the meantime, perhaps these demolitions will give way to desirable urban design projects aimed at improving the city’s connectivity.
How do other cities navigate the space between revitalization and new development?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.