Michigan CEO: Soul-Crushing Sprawl Killing Business

This is the full text of a letter from a business owner on why he might need to leave Michigan. This guy NAILED it, what we have been trying to express on this blog about sprawl and economic vitality. This is what the leadership in Cleveland doesn’t seem to get. Thank you, Andrew Basile!

From: Andrew Basile, Jr
Sent: Friday, July 30, 2010 12:16 PM
Subject: Why our growing firm may have to leave Michigan.

All,

I hope you find this essay of interest/value. It’s probably something
you’ve heard a million times but I thought I ought to at least try to
vocalize it rather than silently surrender.

We have a patent law firm in Troy. In 2006, our firm’s legacy domestic
automotive business collapsed. We rebuilt our practice with out-of-state
clients in a range of industries, including clients like Google, Nissan and
Abbott Labs, located in the US, Japan, Europe and China.

Today, we have 40 highly-paid employees and much of our work now
comes from out of state. This makes us a service exporter. We are very
proud of the contribution our firm makes to the local economy. We also
created a not-for-profit incubator using excess space in our office. The
incubator is home to 4 start-ups, all of which are generating revenue and
two of which have started employing people. This is something we do
without charge as a charity to help the state.

We’d like to stay in Michigan, but we have a problem. It’s not taxes or
regulations. There’s lots of talk about these issues but they have no
impact on our business. We spend more on copiers and toner than we do
on state taxes.

Our problem is access to talent. We have high-paying positions open for
patent attorneys in the software and semiconductor space. Even though
it is one of the best hiring environments for IP firms in 40 years, we
cannot fill these positions. Most qualified candidates live out of state
and simply will not move here, even though they are willing to relocate
to other cities. Our recruiters are very blunt. They say it is almost
impossible to recruit to Michigan without paying big premiums above
competitive salaries on the coasts.

It’s nearly a certainty that we will have to relocate (or at a minimum
expand ) our business out of Michigan if we want to grow.
People – particularly affluent and educated people – just don’t want to
live here. For example, below are charts of migration patterns based on
IRS data Black is inbound, red is outbound. Even though the CA
economy is in very bad shape, there is still a mass migration to San
Francisco vs. mass outbound migration from Oakland County (most
notably to cities like SF, LA, Dallas, Atlanta, NY, DC, Boston, and
Philly) San Fran only seems to be losing people to Portland, a place
with even more open space and higher quality urban environments.


The situation for Michigan is even worse than it seems because those
lines are net migration. You can click on the links and see the composite
of outbound and inbound. I went through many links, and in most cases,
the average income of the outbound from Oakland County is high (e.g.
$60K, and the average income of the inbound is low (e.g. $30K).

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. What we do have are several thousand of miles of streets that
look like this:


Having moved here from California five years ago, I will testify that
Metro Detroit is a very hard place to live. Ask any former Detroiter in
California, and you will hear a consistent recital of the flaws that make
Metro Detroit so unattractive. Things are spread too far apart. You have
to drive everywhere. There’s no mass transit. There are no viable cities.
Lots of it is really ugly, especially the mile after mile of sterile and often
dingy suburban strip shopping and utility wires that line our dilapidated
roads (note above). There’s no nearby open space for most people
(living in Birmingham, it’s 45 minutes in traffic to places like Proud
Lake or Kensington). It’s impossible to get around by bike without
taking your life in your hands. Most people lead sedentary lifestyles.
There’s a grating “car culture” that is really off-putting to many people
from outside of Michigan. I heard these same complaints when I left
25 years ago. In a quarter century, things have only gotten considerably
worse.

Ironically, California is supposed to be a sprawling place. In my
experience they are pikers compared to us. Did you know that Metro
Detroit is one half the density of Los Angeles County?

The fundamental problem it seems to me is that our region as gone
berserk on suburbia to the expense of having any type of nearby open
space or viable urban communities, which are the two primary spatial
assets that attract and retain the best human capital.
For example, I
noted sadly the other day that the entire Oakland Country government
complex was built in a field 5 miles outside of downtown Pontiac. I find
that decision shocking. What a wasted opportunity for maintaining a
viable downtown Pontiac, not to mention the open space now consumed
by the existing complex. What possibly could have been going through
their minds? Happily, most of the men who made those foolish
decisions 30 or 40 years ago are no longer in policy-making roles. A
younger generation needs to recognize the immense folly that they
perpetrated and begin the costly, decades long task of cleaning up the
wreckage.

These are problems, sure, but they could be easily overcome, especially
in Oakland County which is widely recognized as one of the best-run
large counties in the country. But despite our talents and resources, the
region’s problem of place may be intractable for one simple, sorry
reason: our political and business leadership does not view poor quality
of place as a problem and certainly lacks motivation to address the issue.
Indeed, Brooks Patterson — an otherwise extraordinary leader — claims
to love sprawl and says Oakland Country can’t get enough of it. These
leaders presume that the region has “great” quality of life (apparently
defined as big yards, cull de sacs and a nearby Home Depot). In their
minds, we just need to reopen a few more factories and all will be
well. The cherished corollary to this is that Michigan and Metro Detroit
have an “image” problem and that if only people knew great things were
they would consider living or investing here.
The attitude of many in
our region is that our problems are confined to Detroit city while the
suburbs are thought to be lovely.

We don’t have a perception problem, we have a reality problem. Most
young, highly talented knowledge workers from places like Seattle or
San Francisco or Chicago find the even the upper end suburbs of
Metro Detroit to be unappealing. I think long term residents including
many leaders are simply so used to the dreary physical environment of
Southeast Michigan that it has come to seem normal, comfortable and
maybe even attractive. Which is fine so long as we have no aspiration to
attract talent and capital from outside our region.

My fears were confirmed when I began trying to gather local economic
development literature to use as a recruiting tool. The deficits which so
dog our region are sometimes heralded by this literature as assets. For
example, some boosters trumpet our “unrivaled” freeway system as if
freeways and sprawl they engender are “quality of life” assets. In San
Francisco, the place sucking up all the talent and money, they have
removed — literally torn out of the ground — two freeways because
people prefer not to have them. I noted one “Quality of Life” page of a
Detroit area economic development website featured a prominent picture
of an enclosed regional shopping mall! Yuck. It’s theater of the absurd.

The people who put together that website must live in a different cultural
universe from the high income/high education people streaming out of
Michigan for New York, Chicago, and California.
Not only is there no
plan to address these issues, I fear that the public and their elected
leaders in Michigan don’t even recognize the problem or want change.

We have at least one bright spot in the nascent urban corridor between
Pontiac, and Ferndale, which is slowly building a critical mass of
walkable urban assets. At the same time, there’s no coordinated effort to
develop this. Indeed, MDOT officials lie awake at night thinking of
ways to thwart the efforts of local communities along Woodward to
become more walkable. Another symptom the region’s peculiar and
self-destructive adoration of the automobile. Even though the Big
Three are a tiny shadow of their former selves, Michigan is still locked
in the iron grip of their toxic cultural legacy.

I’d like to hang on another five years. I feel like we’re making a
difference. But by the same token, I don’t see any forward progress or
even an meaningful attempt at forward progress. It’s almost like the
people running things are profoundly disconnected from the reality that
many if not most talented knowledge workers find our region’s
paradigm of extreme suburbanization to be highly unattractive. It seems
to me that we are halfway through a 100 year death spiral in which the
forces in support of the status quo become relatively stronger as people
with vision and ambition just give up and leave. As we descend this
death spiral, we must in my mind be approaching the point of no return,
where the constituency for reform dwindles below a critical threshold
and the region’s path of self destruction becomes unalterable.

Thank you for considering my views. I welcome any opportunity to be
of help to any efforts you may have to fix this.

Andrew Basile, Jr.

Andrew R. Basile, Jr.
Young Basile Hanlon & MacFarlane, P.C.
228 Hamilton Avenue, Suite 300
Palo Alto, California 94301

Offices also in Troy and Ann Arbor Michigan

177 Comments

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177 responses to “Michigan CEO: Soul-Crushing Sprawl Killing Business

  1. schmange

    With that, I think I will just quit writing this blog. That guy just said everything that needed to be said.

  2. It IS theater of the absurd!

  3. schmange

    I like that he pointed out that the leadership in Michigan is on a different cultural planet than in-demand young talent from the coasts. Old fuddy duddies are running the show in Cleveland and they have the same attitude. This is probably what Aaron Renn was observing when he wrote that piece about generational tensions around cities and suburbs.

  4. He got that right,

    “We don’t have a perception problem, we have a reality problem. Most
    young, highly talented knowledge workers from places like Seattle or
    San Francisco or Chicago find the even the upper end suburbs of
    Metro Detroit to be unappealing. I think long term residents including
    many leaders are simply so used to the dreary physical environment of
    Southeast Michigan that it has come to seem normal, comfortable and
    maybe even attractive.”

    There is a reality problem. The Rust Belt is like the Old South–which was just so “misunderstood”, when in fact outsiders understood pretty well what was going on.

  5. John S.

    Cleveland’s problem isn’t so much aesthetics as it is its own sad, self-flogging, defeatist culture and victimhood. There is a lot to like within the city itself (e.g. Tremont, Ohio City, University Circle, Italian Village, Coventry, the Lakefront, etc.) and even within some of its suburbs such as Lakewood. But with no vision and no comprehensive plan in place with goals set for the near and longer terms, Cleveland will continue to stagnate and stumble about aimlessly while the talented, educated and ambitious seek more certainty elsewhere.

    Nothing is attractive about defeatism and victimhood. At least, not for healthy people.

  6. Eric

    Finding a sense of place is what young folks are looking for: whether it be hip, trendy downtown areas or the quiet countryside or lake. The greater metro Detroit area is littered with highways, by-ways, strip malls and suburban development. These makes it easy to drive in and out. It is not pedestrian friendly. Living near a highway intersection used to an incentive for suburbanites (easy to get to work) until they actually make the daily commute to the city or suburban office complex. I don’t see large incentives for young people to move to the greater Detroit area, only the downtown area if at all. Spending lots of time in cities with downtown atmospheres like Ann Arbor, Plymouth, Traverse City, are places where “out-of-staters” would like to move to because it is attractive and may be the only economic engines left. Commercial suburbia IS ugly. Michigan is not known for their funky downtowns – which is what young people are looking for. Please don’t generalize the entire state in you rant about Troy and the greater Detroit area; much of it is very beautiful.

  7. On the positive side, the one place in Michigan thinking about sprawl and some of these quality of life issues is Detroit itself. Also, Ann Arbor to a great extent.

    Or at least from a distance it appears that way.

  8. Any chance you would let me repost this on Buffalorising.com? This is just perfect! Here is a similar post I did on an intersection in the Buffalo Suburbs. You are welcome to use it here as well if you are interested. It really brought out the haters and sprawl appologists in the comments section.

    http://archives.buffalorising.com/story/how_did_we_get_to_this

  9. True But Wait

    I applaud the writer for his honesty and grasp of the circumstances. I have to wonder, though: if he’s concerned about attracting workers, why is his firm located in *Troy*? I agree it’s hard enough to relocate people off the coasts—and Michigan is losing population in general—but I think the only places you will see any short- to medium-term population stability is in already thriving downtowns like Ann Arbor or quirky smaller downtowns like Ypsi, East Lansing, or Holland.

    Let’s be realistic: the aesthetics of suburban nightmares like the ones in the photos will not turn into anything remotely attractive for the next 40 years, if ever. I’d be open to hearing other points of view, but my crystal ball says that, at best, we’ll see population re-positioning or mildly growing into the areas that are already our strengths. To me, for a state facing a long-term population decline, I think it’s what we should strive for.

  10. Richey

    Ditto True But Wait

  11. Alki

    The writer of that letter made some good points but I couldn’t help feeling like it was kicking someone who is already sown on the ground and bleeding. When is that ever helpful?!

    First of all, he’s made his move. He lives in Palo Alto, not Detroit. His loyalty is to Palo Alto, not to Detroit. Sure he has an office in Troy and Ann Arbor but he lives in Palo Alto. Enough said.

    Secondly, I lived in California. There are plenty of ugly places on the Peninsula where this guy is; in San Francisco……….yes…SF is not all awesome buildings and great urban spaces; and definitely in Oakland. Every American city has trash intersections and roads like those shown up above…….its who we’ve been since WW II. And as far as sprawling……well last I checked Dallas is the fastest sprawling city in the country with some butt ugly suburbs and it doesn’t have any problem attracting people.

    Thirdly, I don’t care what that map says……there is a definite outmigration from California. Things are not all peaches and cream in California. Its why I left the state and moved north.

    Fourthly who in their right mind and with any sense of fairness would compare SF or Palo Alto to Detroit. SF is one of the most beautiful, urbane cities in the world. It has not gone through any of the turmoil that Detroit has experienced over the past 5 decades. In fact, while Detroit was getting decimated, SF was experiencing solid growth. Its like comparing royalty with someone who grew up in poverty. There is going to be some significant differences. And don’t forget, the guy stuck his offices in Troy. If he is so classy, why did he pick a suburb like Troy…..yes, I’ve been there.

    Look…..Detroit has some serious problems. There is no question. Its got its work cut out for it. However, in the last couple of months, I have read up on what’s happening and I am impressed with all that you are doing…..the sense of optimism and comraderie. That eminem commercial deeply resonated with the rest of the country and it should be a part of any campaign to attract new businesses to the state.

    And as for the naysayers like the author of that letter, he ain’t doing you any good…….and he’s certainly not a friend or on your side so ignore him. All that kind of garbage does is throw salt in the wound. You all know what needs to be done so just keep on doing it and ignore negative commentary and the people who would take you down.

  12. Alki

    Typo up above……that was ‘down’, not ‘sown’ in the first paragraph of my post. My apologies.😉

  13. schmange

    Respect to everyone, but I totally don’t get the need to put this guy down. Such defensiveness. Does anyone really know he was responsible for the business’ location? No. Because it’s outside the scope of the letter.

    I’m not aware of a law against criticizing cities that are troubled. I think the people that demand that ask us to bury our heads in the sand.

  14. Matthew Modrack

    Well, for one thing, you’re working from the Mother of all sprawled towns… Troy… so that doesn’t help. But, you’ve confirmed our worst fears… “it’s the density stupid”. The only towns in Michigan with decent density are Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids & maybe B’Ham. City Planners and Planning Commissions spent that last 45 years of practice keeping lots large and stories low… and now we know what good it did us. There isn’t a Planner or Planning Commission in our state who didnt spend at least half their working life beating down projects that were over 3 stories tall… it’s just what they did. The sprawl, and the subsequent uselessness of the development thereon, is the result… And it cannot be fixed becuase the density is so low. Aging population, fleeing young people, fixed structural characteristics in the cities, i.e., no mass transit and no density… need the latter to get the former, and the shifting economy that honors the nimble, creative types, and here you are. I’d move to Ann Arbor, it will be far easier to recruit to. I wouldn’t get too excited about the train coming to Troy because the density is still far too low and spread out.

  15. Tim

    Hi,

    Interesting article. I’ve felt this way many times, especially in my native Canada which, despite retaining its downtown spaces rivals Michigan or anywhere for suburban ugliness.

    On a visit to Detroit last year I was amazed not only by the abandonment of whole sections of the city, but the quality and elegance of many buildings downtown. Even knowing the history, I had to ask myself why people would abandoned all these fine structures, this beautiful and historic city their forebears had built, for the nothingness of the burbs. I often wonder what future historians will make of this impulse to abandonment . .

    I did wonder what it would be like to live in Detroit. It had a lot to recommend it – people, architecture, Living there, even if you could make a living, would be tough – and isolating. Still, I have hope. NY was almost wiped out a couple of decades ago and it’s rebounded. Detroit is different of course, but I saw lots of reasons to live there, if basic infrastructure was improved.

    T.

  16. Paul

    I do agree with the basic premise that place matters. Cities must be livable, fun places. People move to cities to: grow a career, grow a family, grow a business, etc.

    I’ve been to Detroit several times and it seems to have been devastated by suburban sprawl and unabated development. Then you take away the jobs and what you’re left with is nothing worth saving.

    I live in Cleveland, we have some problems for sure. But we have also done several things well. In the 70s when Dallas-Ft.Worth was building a massive airport between the two cities, Cleveland-Akron set aside 33,000 contiguous acres for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. As Cleveland’s neighborhoods emptied into the suburbs, numerous Community Development Corporations sprung up to redevelop and regentrify. Neighborhoods like Tremont, Little Italy, Ohio City, Detroit-Shoreway offer a living experience much different than nearly all suburbs. Cleveland continues to develop its metropolitan park system and interconnecting hike and bike trails. We continue to work at developing the shoreline…no doubt our biggest potential asset. Our downtown is filled with restaurants, residents, and some retail. We’re working hard on keeping big employers in the city and fostering a healthcare R+D district around University Circle.

    So there is lots of hope and for Cleveland – lots of change going on now. You won’t see it if all you’re doing is driving down I-77 and seeing some abandoned buildings. You need to go to the neighborhoods. A city is not measured by the number of skyscrapers or the number of jobs or the size. It is measured by its parks, its neighborhoods, its access to culture and education.

  17. Alki

    @ Schmange….I don’t feel defensive at all. I think the letter is a bit unfair. I repeat…..I don’t see the point of kicking someone when they are already down for the count. While his letter is fairly articulate and his points accurate, he’s not bringing new information to the table……so what’s the point? Detroit doesn’t need to be trashed further……enough of that has already been done IMO.

    • schmange

      Alki, I respect your opinion. I don’t think the intent of the letter is to bash Detroit. It’s about bringing up some very real concerns about the direction the city has been taking. Caring about Detroit doesn’t mean pretending everything’s ok, while the city is cannibalized in favor of mediocre suburbs, promising young people are excluded and disillusioned and important economic institutions like this business are destroyed.

  18. schmange

    Paul, Cleveland has the same problems in my opinion. It lost 17 percent of its population over a single decade, while Median County grew tremendously. I agree that some neighborhoods are getting stronger and that the CDCs do good work, but I don’t think that’s enough. We need regional recognition about the importance of the central city and real reforms that will shift the dynamic. As a region we have been investing in places like Solon and Medina at the expense of Cleveland. People are responding to that by moving farther away.

  19. Joel

    A lot of people writing comments are putting down Troy and claiming that’s the reason he’s having such trouble attracting talent. But look at his signature at the end of the letter:

    “Offices in Troy and Ann Arbor Michigan”

    So I don’t think that his office placement is the problem.

  20. Paul

    schmange (author) => Statistically, Cleveland has the same problem as Detroit. But Cleveland has infrastructure that Detroit has less of: vast network of metropolitan parks; extensive light rail (thats on the ground not 40 ft up in the air); large network of CDCs; decent amount of stable, urban neighborhoods; more shoreline next to the urban core; a thriving University Circle with extensive healthcare R+D job base; state school downtown; highly ranked private school in the circle. Most importantly, and contrary to a lot of bloggers, theres a lot of people that are not giving up on Cleveland’s urban core and it shows. I do agree though, Cleveland will continue to suffer if it does not figure out how to educate children from lower and middle income families. Fix this problem and you’ll fix a lot more than just schools. (Full disclosure, I used to live in the core but had to move out to a cozy suburb when the kids were ready for Kindergarten.) Now that my kids are in college, and I have more free time, I find myself making trips to Tremont, Ohio City, Detroit-Shoreway, downtown, regularly each week. With gas going through the roof, I’ll probably move back in.

  21. Paul

    Does Detroit have light rail? Last time I was there I rode on the people mover, which I thought was the worst public transportation I’ve ever been on. It was up in the air, off the street, and very point to point. Good public transportation is ON the street and offers many entry and exit points. And should be fun to ride, like a trolley. Its just one more piece of the puzzle to making a livable city. I seriously can’t wait for $10/gal gas.

  22. Kristi Gandrud

    One of the points that really resonated with me in this article was the idea of a car culture leading to a sedentary lifestyle, and how unattractive that is for a lot of 20/30-somethings who are looking to settle down somewhere.

    An example from my own experiences: growing up in the Rust Belt, and I suppose being cursed with the wrong genetics (or too many processed sugars?) I’ve always struggled to keep my body at a healthy weight. I recently had the opportunity to return to Western PA: I even had a full scholarship to do a master’s course at an area university. But when it came right down to decision time, having to own a car was a dealbreaker, and I turned the master’s course down. (The expense of owning a car–insurance, gas, upkeep, etc.– was another factor, even though a family member was offering to sell me a very gently used, 3-year-old Volkswagen.)

    So, expense aside, here’s why I turned it down: I know–for certain, after nearly a decade of experience–that EVERY TIME I spend more than 6 weeks in the Rust Belt, driving everywhere, hardly having to use my own muscles in the act of locomotion, I gain 10 pounds. Just like that. And it’s not vanity, right? I mean…I’m not just like, ‘Oh darn, I can’t fit into my skinny jeans anymore.’ (Not being skinny, I don’t wear skinny jeans anyhow.) It’s more like: if I stay here, how long will this continue? What is this doing to my body? Will this affect my ability to get pregnant? To do the outdoor activities I enjoy? To feel like I have enough energy to make it through the day without aches and pains? I’ve seen many members of my family wage epic battles against their own bodies, dragging themselves to Weight Watchers every few years, trying every fad diet that graces the pages of women’s magazines, and even getting gastric bypass surgery. None of these things are pleasant. To the extent that I can avoid them, simply by living a lifestyle that allows me to walk, I choose to do so.

    Quality of place isn’t just something people think of in aesthetic terms. In my own life, I’ve really thought long and hard about whether to return home, and I’ve realized: quality of place affects quality of health, which has far-reaching effects on quality of life. People–myself included–really do make decisions on the basis of avoiding the “car culture,” for reasons of both physical well-being and expense.

  23. Anon

    Somewhat related to this post – all readers of this blog are going to have to do a good hard think over the next year. The Census – coast to coast – was a big punch in the face to anyone who thinks urban living is preferable. The losses are huge and widespread. St. Louis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Toledo all lost people. The historic cores of the city/counties also lost people – Columbus, Indianapolis, Kansas City.

    During the 1990s, young professionals were moving back into dense older cities, low-income households mostly stayed, and the census showed gains or small loses. During the 2000s, we assumed the trend was continuing – and maybe it was – if the trend is young professionals moving in.

    However, that trend was swamped by the hundreds of thousands of other households moving out. The 1990s was the tech bubble, but the 2000s was all about housing. This hit the older cities in three ways. First, the easy money let a lot of low income people move to inner ring suburbs. Other low income households took equity out of their houses (second mortgage) and stayed in the neighborhood. But then lost their homes and followed friends and neighbors out of the city. And a lot of low-skilled and semi-skilled people moved south because more of the construction, loan processing, house furnishing, etc. activity was down there.

    So when we’re complaining that the civic leaders in Troy MI don’t understand that talented people want dense urban neighborhoods, we’re really missing the point. The writer is suggesting we need to supply more urban neighborhoods – but the emptying out of our cities means we already have more urban neighborhoods than we know what to do with.

    If people like density, access to transit, access to amenities, why isn’t Edgewater (Cleveland) packed full of young professionals? Why isn’t Detroit shoreway (also in CLE) selling out every unit? Why doesn’t Buffalo have more IP attorneys, and why does Chicago and Philadelphia still have empty neighborhoods?

    Maybe, the problem is that we already have too many urban neighborhoods compared to the young professionals who appreciate them. The 95% the population that isn’t young, talented attorneys either thinks Troy Michigan offers a more desirable lifestyle than Haight-Ashbury, or at best they don’t care.

  24. Anon I think that is a good point. I think a lot of the losses in these cities were low income families. On the other hand Seattle Denver San Francisco new York cities that really get this saw a different pattern. Cleveland st Louis Toledo are major talent exporters. A lot of would be Detroit shorewayers are filling up census roles in livable cities.

  25. Cleveland is definitely NOT a major talent exporter. It is a net importer.

  26. schmange

    It may be a net importer but that doesn’t change the fact that is a major exporter. It imports talent from Youngstown and Lorain and maybe Detroit. It exports it to Washington, San Francisco and Texas.

    My friends are headed for the hills. I’ve lost 7 close friends in two years.

  27. alki

    @ schmange,

    But that’s not what he’s really doing……the points he brings up under the guise of helping to enlighten poor Detroit are points you already know. I know that because I have read those same points over and over again in a number of Detroit blogs and articles in the Detroit News and other Michigan publications. Basically, he is telling you……its hopeless, Detroit, so give up. I was not surprised by your initial response…..it was to be expected. When is telling someone to give up hope a credible form of help? Seriously.

    Let me tell you…….when I first moved to CA from MPLS, I can not tell you how many subtle putdowns I went through. Repeatedly, they would ask me if MPLS was in Canada or they called it Milwaukee [when they knew better] or asked if it was in Manitoba. These were smart, well educated people making these digs. They repeatedly asked if I grew up on a farm in spite of the fact I looked and acted very urban.

    And look at the terms the coasts use to describe the Midwest……..the Rustbelt or flyover country. Constantly, the Midwest is put down. When I moved to Seattle from LA, one of my friends came to visit……he told all my friends back in LA I had moved back to the Midwest like that was an insult to me. I just laughed. I am proud of the parts of Seattle that are like the Midwest…….I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Even if you don’t fully get it, you all have a lot going for you……even Detroit. Ignore the chatter from the coasts………most of them are so unhappy with their own lives they can’t help but carp. Enimem is your friend; not the dude who wrote that letter up above. Just focus on Detroit…….you know how to make it better. You know what good is like……what successful is like. Make those your goals and ignore silly letters that pretend to help but only zing. Trust me, you will be way ahead of the game if you do.

  28. schmange

    Alki, that is not my reading at all. He’s saying Detroit needs to evolve.

  29. alki

    Anon, IMO, you are using too big a brush when describing what’s happening to cities in this country. One size does not fit all. To whit, Chicago’s downtown core gained population…..so did St. Louis’s downtown…..even as other neighborhoods in those cities lost population. I bet the same is true of Buffalo. In Seattle, we gained population throughout the city but the gain was not nearly as much as was expected. Why? Well for starters, the birth rate plummeted throughout the country at the start of the Great Recession. That meant the growth rate for the entire country dropped…..just not the growth rate for cities. And in migration slowed considerably.

    And let me add……reversing a negative outflow and then growing a city’s population that is already build out is a slow process. Seattle didn’t start growing again until the 1990 census after two decades of negative growth. It wasn’t until 2000 that it exceeded its previous high reached in 1960. And even after 3 decades of positive growth and having a very good quality of life, the city does not attract a lot of families. It is what it is. All we can do is to keep trying to make the city more attractive for families but frankly, its not the end of the world if families continue to be the minority in Seattle. It doesn’t make us any less vibrant.

    In addition, again IMO, MPLS, Columbus, Milwaukee and INDY are not in the same place as Cleveland, St Louis and Detroit. Frankly, I don’t think Cleveland and Detroit are dealing with the same issues. Each city has its own set of problems with which to deal and overcome. And what works for Detroit may not work for St. Louis.

    I believe all cities should be focused on improving their quality of life, encouraging vibrancy and the growth of new industries, and working diligently to attract educated people. I think Pittsburgh has the right idea. And if that leads to population growth, then all the better. But increasing population should not be the end all……..there are just too many variables that come into play to make that a reasonable goal…..again IMO.

  30. alki

    @ Schmange, how is that news to you? I’ve only been reading what’s been happening to Detroit in depth for the past two months and its not news to me. In fact, the dude is stating the obvious IMO.

  31. schmange

    Alki, does Detroit leadership recognize that sprawling growth patterns are weakening the central city and the region in general? If they do, great. There doesn’t seem to be widespread recognition of that in Cleveland. That is what concerns me.

  32. I think the point you are trying to make is perfectly valid, but the way you are going around making it is completely false. Like most people who live in the Metro Detroit area, you base you extend your view of the “Detroit Way” as if it represents the entire state of Michigan.

    Michigan has not been making quality of life a priority. They don’t see it as a way to attract young people, or really anybody to the state. The cities that have made it a priority (Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Grand Rapids) are all fairing much better than the rest — in some senses of the word, they are thriving. All three cities have good public transportation (not great, but workable), and the downtown areas are walkable and bikable. They also have good local park systems. As a person who choose to come back to Michigan these were all things that attracted me back. Other cities like Seattle, SF, Denver, DC all make these priorities as well, and have public policy to back it up.

    Other than that, Michigan also has a major preception issue. When I tell people that I moved back and now live in Lansing, all of them immediatly think I moved into Detroit. They ask about gangs, drugs, how many times my car has been broken into, and if 8 Mile is as bad as Emenem made it seem. They have no idea that Michigan is anything but Detroit. People who lived in the midwest may know a little more about Michigan — for example that outside Detroit, there are more deer than people, and that hunting is king.

    For many people, if you offer a job in Michigan, they ask if they need to buy a bullet-proof vest just to attend the interview! (Just of note, many people have similar preceptions abuot Texas, where they think they need to wear spurs and a coyboy hat to interview).

    How do we fix these things — a lot of it has to do with Public Policy. And the stuff that Rick Snyder is pushing down will not help. Businesses will take the tax incentivies, try hiring people, but they won’t come because Michigan will be closing its state parks and removing the busses off the streets to pay for it. Instead of paying for businesses to come here (welfare system), we should be building the infastructure for them to WANT to be here (talent system).

    Want a technology corridor? Build out power and broadband access to the area that you are targeting. Right now, Michigan has very poor infastructure for both.
    Want bio-tech firms? Setup public policy that allows easy access to expermintation and research. Allow companies to research the medicines and health issues without worrying about the local or state governents banning their research.
    Want manfacturing firms? Build better roads, rails and power infastrcture. The workers are not the problem, it’s the infastrcture to support simply building a plant or process that modern assembly require.
    And finally, want entrepreneures? Facilitate an easy way for them to start up. Organize places for them to meet and work. Organize an easy way for a person with an idea to turn it into a business. Things like creating pooled insurance (insurance and money are the two biggest deterrants for people starting their own businesses), pooled resources such as legal or accounting that people can tap into. I think East Lansing is getting it with their TIC enviroment they are building.

  33. Cleveland is not a major exporter of talent. It retains more than most cities. In general, Rust Belt cities have low rates of outmigration. Cleveland is no exception.

  34. http://uac.utoledo.edu/News/blade-10-1-06.htm

    UT’s Urban Affairs Center analyzed 1.11 million alumni records of Ohio graduates between 1980 and 2003. It found more than 80 percent of those who graduated between 2000 and 2003 did not leave for “cool cities” along the coast. They stayed in Ohio. Out of the entire 24-year pool of alumni, 70 percent are still Buckeyes.

    That’s just a sample. I could list a bunch of “cool cities” that are, indeed, major exporters of talent. Chicago is an excellent example. So is San Francisco.

  35. alki,

    I have to read the post and the commentary more closely, but your remarks seem in left field.

    “But that’s not what he’s really doing……the points he brings up under the guise of helping to enlighten poor Detroit are points you already know. I know that because I have read those same points over and over again in a number of Detroit blogs and articles in the Detroit News and other Michigan publications. Basically, he is telling you……its hopeless, Detroit, so give up. I was not surprised by your initial response…..it was to be expected. When is telling someone to give up hope a credible form of help? Seriously.”

    Where does one start? To begin, the letter is not really addressed to Detroit itself, but refers to problems recruiting in one of it’s wealthier satellite cities/suburban areas. The writer hardly mentions Detroit itself.

    Second, taking at face value, the person is who he is, he has insight from a fairly significant regional employer.

    There is no statement at all that the “region is hopeless”, but rather a very specific suggestion backed with first hand experience.
    In contrast to the “this is how we roll”, fluff from Eminem, the writer offers specific advice.

    Yes, Michigan and much of the former rust belt has taken some hard blows with the loss of so many major employers. Even so, something very particular has gone wrong. Why has the state failed to develop new jobs and new industries? Are there things being done that have hurt resiliency and the ability to adopt and recover? IMHO, a good part of this is a failure to create and nurture places, people want to live in and stay, rather than places that just have value as long as a plant is open.

    The Pittsburgh region itself was filled with places like this. The peak population in Braddock, for instance had a peak population in around 1960. Long before any of the major Mon valley mills closed, people were leaving these towns.

    This is why I made that comparison between the Old South and much of the thinking in todays midwest. Few in the post war South were willing to examine the structure and values that held back progress and development. No advice was needed from “outsiders”. Only in the places where change and self examination happened did progress start.

    Anyone, looking at Michigan’s economy today who doesn’t think it’s time to stop, think and be open to advice is really in denial.

    BTW—As, I stated, it’s actually in the city of Detroit itself where it looks like this is happening.

  36. Suburbs are all the same. All are as ugly as a boil on my hairy Irish butt. They exist for two reasons: so that a fatcat or two can get rich.

    They also exist because so many Americans have ‘problems’ with the blacks. The American Way is to blame the world on the blacks and run away to suburbia. There are so many suburbs everywhere in the country because there is so much fear.

    The fatcats parlay fear into a system. Add zoning laws and zero- percent financing and you wind up with misery on the cheap. Suburbia is ugly because it is a kind of modernistic prison. The idea isn’t to keep the ‘inmates’ in but to keep them far away.

    The suburbs are a nationwide monument to American cowardice. Unfortunately they also don’t pay for themselves which is why the country is going broke. Prisons are expensive.

    It’s going to be fun the next five years the end of the oil age and … all that.

  37. alki

    @ Nick K.

    Well said. Maybe its easier to be more objective about a place……whether its Detroit or the Midwest….when you have lived somewhere else. Whatever the case…..I think you make excellent points.

  38. Paul

    I definitely agree that the outer suburbs are a terrible drain on core cities like Detroit and Cleveland. Hopefully the future will force outer suburbanites to pay more for extended services like water, sewer, natural gas, transportation, etc. The trend has already started with higher gasoline prices, more toll roads, increased water and sewar bills based on property location and drainage. Maybe regions like Detroit and Cleveland will wake up and realize these basic utilities will have to be more centralized and that distribution will have to be a cost adder. If I live closer to the sewage treatment plant, my bill should be less.

    We in the Cleveland region should consider making I-71, I-77, I-90, I-271 into toll roads. The money will go to road upkeep and run-off / drainage issues. Something of this magnitude would have to start at the state level at least, probably the federal level.

    Do the same with sewer and water…which is already occurring. Maintenance for outer suburban distribution should be completely paid for by those in the outer suburbs. These costs should also be put on companies that locate there.

    End tax abatements. Set tax rates based on State government guidelines or Federal government guidelines that clearly favor core cities. For the longest time, the Feds have favored the suburbs by funding highways, etc. Its time to take it back.

    We need federal laws that give more power to core cities over their multi-county regions. Its that simple and its not socialism or fascism. Its called regional planning and it works.

  39. alki

    @ John Morris;

    First, here are two paragraphs from Basile’s letter:

    “Having moved here from California five years ago, I will testify that
    Metro Detroit is a very hard place to live. Ask any former Detroiter in California, and you will hear a consistent recital of the flaws that make Metro Detroit so unattractive. Things are spread too far apart. You have to drive everywhere. There’s no mass transit. There are no viable cities.

    Lots of it is really ugly, especially the mile after mile of sterile and often dingy suburban strip shopping and utility wires that line our dilapidated roads (note above). There’s no nearby open space for most people (living in Birmingham, it’s 45 minutes in traffic to places like Proud Lake or Kensington). It’s impossible to get around by bike without taking your life in your hands. Most people lead sedentary lifestyles. There’s a grating “car culture” that is really off-putting to many people from outside of Michigan. I heard these same complaints when I left 25 years ago. In a quarter century, things have only gotten considerably worse.”

    Frankly, I don’t understand how any of the above is new news to people in Metro Detroit. Like I said in an earlier post, these complaints have been said repeatedly in both blogs and newspaper articles coming out of Detroit. If its new news to someone, then the metro Detroiter in question must be living under a rock. And repeatedly, those same blogs and articles have said the antidote to these complaints is to build up density, make Detroit more urbane and attractive, work hard to attract people and new business and improve mass transit. Isn’t that what Basile is saying? And it comes as no surprise that much of Detroit has gotten worse over the last 25 years. I knew that before I started reading about Detroit in depth two months ago. How is this in anyway, shape or form news to people in Detroit? Please explain that one to me.

    Secondly, all his talk about sprawl is couched as if Detroit invented the term. Duh….not true. In fact, sprawl is indigenous to the American culture thanks to policy decisions made by the Republican president, Eisenhower, after WW II. While Europe was focusing its resources on mass transit, the US was building an interstate system that would rival any in the world. And if that wasn’t enough of a contributor to sprawl, housing programs passed under that same Republican president encouraged single family homes in the suburbs. As a consequence, there are many, many sprawling cities in this country……LA, MPLS, KC, St Louis, Chicago, Seattle, San Diego, Dallas, Atlanta, DC, the SFO Bay area, et al….not just Detroit. And yet, Basile implies that sprawl is peculiar to Detroit. Huh?

    As for why the state has been weak in attracting new industries, you need look no further than the economics that fueled MI’s original growth. For a long time, it sounds like MI believed the auto industry would always come back. It was an easy default position to take because the alternatives were not very good. The auto industry once paid a very high wage to workers who barely had a high school education. In fact, the auto worker was at the top of the manu., payscale food chain. What industry would pluck a plant down in MI when its labor costs would be cheaper in almost any other state outside MI?. Not only did the higher payscale deter other companies from coming into the state but it discouraged MI residents from getting more training or education beyond high school. After all, you could a very nice living right outside of high school working at an auto plant without going to college. So there never developed a large pool of educated labor available into which non industrial companies could tap.

    Seattle was in a similar situation as Detroit back in the 1960s. While I wasn’t around then, from what I understand Boeing did some major layoffs that crippled the city. It was so bad someone put up a billboard…….and frankly, this is an example of Seattle’s gallows humor……saying the last person leaving Seattle please turn off the lights. It took decades for the city to recover from that economic disaster. Starbucks got started in 1971; Microsoft in the last 1970s; Expedia, Amazon, F5 Networks, Immunex [now owned by Amgen]etc in the late 1990s.

    Turning a city or state first requires that the city or state turn its reputation. That’s what MI and Detroit are doing now. That’s what the Chrysler/Eminem commercial was all about……and seriously, I don’t consider that commercial fluff. That commercial moved a country. It was incredibly effective. At the same time, MI is doing everything it can to bring in new industry and not without some success. To whit, I just bought stock in a bank in Holland because I know that two battery plants employing nearly 1000 people are opening up in the Holland area this year.

    Right now, what MI and Detroit and the people that love state and city need to do right now is stay positive. Easy to say; very hard to do. The weak economic expansion and then severe recession during the past ten years hurt this country significantly. It will take years for the country to recover…….as it does, so will MI/Detroit.

  40. It’s pretty clear from the letter that it was much more targeted at the sprawl growth patterns in Detroit’s suburbs than taking a shot at the city itself.The city leaders themselves do seem to be talking about these issues-density, neighborhoods, transit in a fairly logical way.

    From what, I can tell, it’s in many of the sprawling suburbs have not been thinking much about this.I don’t think it’s being thought about on a statewide level.

    I’m not an expert on Michigan and have actually never touched foot there.

    I am not suggesting as I think, the letter writer and Angie may be that this is Michigan’s only problem. Top to bottom, something terribly wrong has happened. Everything must be looked at.My guess, is that it is a major issue. Failure to sustain significant livable cities and towns means will almost surely hurt the ability to incubate new businesses or attract new people. Obviously, the redundant infrastructure and fragmented government costs then lead to higher taxes–for a poorer quality of life.

    I don’t mean to imply

    No way is this just an “image” problem. That’s like saying Mississipi in 1950 just had an image problem.

  41. Ooops, written quickly with lots of dropped thoughts.

  42. schmange

    Jim those are interesting statistics and dont jive with what I’ve read and observed. Maybe we could do a post exploring it more.

    As for Toledo, you are talking to a third generation leaver. My grandparents moved away in the 70s. My parents moved away in the 80s. I myself moved away for the seond time in 2008. I come from an enormous catholic family from that region. Out of literally hundreds there’s only a handful left in the Toledo area.

  43. alki said,

    “As a consequence, there are many, many sprawling cities in this country……LA, MPLS, KC, St Louis, Chicago, Seattle, San Diego, Dallas, Atlanta, DC, the SFO Bay area, et al….not just Detroit. And yet, Basile implies that sprawl is peculiar to Detroit. Huh?”

    Yes, but I do think in many of these places, serious thought and action is happening to reverse thse trends. San Francisco, has torn down several highways and is now looking at parking policies. Alexandria and the other near D.C. suburbs have tried to become much more urban, dense and transit oriented. Even the developers of the giant mall, Tyson’s Corner are talking about completly transforming around transit. L.A. is really taliking about transit and had built real downtown.

    The irony is that places like Nashville and Chattanooga are more open to new ideas than Michigan.

    I do want to make one more point. It doesn’t take a genius to see that sprawl would be much more unpleasant and financially unsustainable in a place with harsh winters. This is the worst possible development pattern for Michigan.

  44. One more self evident point. Seeing a certain amount of sprawl in a rapidly growing city/region is one thing.The Cleveland, Detroit & St Louis regions are both shrinking and sprawling at the same time.

  45. Pingback: Michigan CEO: Soul-Crushing Sprawl Killing Business | Rust Wire | Greg's Dumb Blog

  46. alki

    @ John M.

    >>>Top to bottom, something terribly wrong has happened.<<>>Yes, but I do think in many of these places, serious thought and action is happening to reverse thse trends. San Francisco, has torn down several highways and is now looking at parking policies. Alexandria and the other near D.C. suburbs have tried to become much more urban, dense and transit oriented. Even the developers of the giant mall, Tyson’s Corner are talking about completly transforming around transit. L.A. is really taliking about transit and had built real downtown.<<<

    If you want to see how fast American cities are sprawling check out this article:

    "•In San Francisco, the outlying county growth was 25 times that of the central counties.

    •In New York, the outlying county growth was 10 times that of the central counties.

    •In Boston and Minneapolis-St. Paul, the outlying country growth was between four and five times the growth in the central counties.

    •In Baltimore, the outlying county growth was 3.5 times the growth in the central counties.

    •In St. Louis, Washington (DC) and Chicago, the country growth was between two and three times the growth in the central counties."

    http://www.newgeography.com/content/00868-exurban-growth-greater-central-growth-census-bureau

    Portland, OR is probably the metro area in this country that has put forth the most effort to reduce sprawl…..and is heavily criticized in certain circles for its 'socialistic' tendencies. We are a nation of urban sprawl…….and we seem to love it.

  47. alki

    Something happened with the post first post……..all of it didn’t go through…..I am trying again.

    @ John M.

    >>>Top to bottom, something terribly wrong has happened.<<>>Yes, but I do think in many of these places, serious thought and action is happening to reverse thse trends. San Francisco, has torn down several highways and is now looking at parking policies. Alexandria and the other near D.C. suburbs have tried to become much more urban, dense and transit oriented. Even the developers of the giant mall, Tyson’s Corner are talking about completly transforming around transit. L.A. is really taliking about transit and had built real downtown.<<<

    If you want to see how fast American cities are sprawling check out this article:

    "•In San Francisco, the outlying county growth was 25 times that of the central counties.

    •In New York, the outlying county growth was 10 times that of the central counties.

    •In Boston and Minneapolis-St. Paul, the outlying country growth was between four and five times the growth in the central counties.

    •In Baltimore, the outlying county growth was 3.5 times the growth in the central counties.

    •In St. Louis, Washington (DC) and Chicago, the country growth was between two and three times the growth in the central counties."

    http://www.newgeography.com/content/00868-exurban-growth-greater-central-growth-census-bureau

    Portland, OR is probably the metro area in this country that has put forth the most effort to reduce sprawl…..and is heavily criticized in certain circles for its 'socialistic' tendencies. We are a nation of urban sprawl…….and we seem to love it.

  48. alki

    This is the part that doesn’t seem to want to go through. Give it one last try.

    @ John M.

    >>>Top to bottom, something terribly wrong has happened.<<<

    Yes, Detroit is an example of a perfect storm. How many one industry towns have a metro population of over 4 million people? Not many. The car companies headquartered there were some of the least innovative, most poorly managed car companies in the world. Throw in corruption, racial tensions, some major white flight and a serious committment to urban sprawl, and you have a disaster. There is an abandoned train station a few miles from downtown Detroit that people bemoan its fate. Over that train station was a built a multi storied building…..I think ten stories. It was supposed to be a hotel. It never got occupied. It was built in 1913:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michigan_Central_Station

    That tells me there has been some major craziness going on in Detroit for a long time……probably laying the seeds for what was to come later.

    • schmange

      Do we have a troll on this site? From New Geography? How flattering!

      Yeah Alki, sprawl is everywhere and Detroit’s is unexceptional. If you say so.😉

  49. alki,

    Some of what you are saying is very true. One should however be aware of how percentages work. Small numbers of people can make for huge percent differences in counties with low populations.

    Do we also really need to look again at just how badly this has worked out? Places like Merced, and the Inland Empire were in the epicenter of the real estate collapse and have been unable to sustian or grow any real economy beyond just basic services and home construction.

    I also want to say that, sprawl is very much something hard to capture with general statistics. One area may be growing as a network of fairly dense towns surrounded by lots of open space, while another may be a thin gruel of sprawl. Both can show up in many stats as the same.

  50. Jim those are interesting statistics and dont jive with what I’ve read and observed. Maybe we could do a post exploring it more.

    I’d be delighted to do a post about reckoning brain drain perception with data.

    The most compelling part of Basile’s concern:

    Most qualified candidates live out of state and simply will not move here, even though they are willing to relocate to other cities.

    Aaron Renn referred to it as the “Ann Arbor dilemma”. I’ve posted quite a bit about Ann Arbor’s struggles to attract talent because of the negative perceptions about Detroit. Almost all Rust Belt cities suffer from the same problem: Attracting people.

    Everyone worried about Rust Belt brain drain should read the following:

    http://www.newyorkfed.org/research/regional_economy/glance/upstate_glance1_07.pdf

  51. Angie,

    I have to agree somewhat with Jim. People are very unaware of how high a percent of natives have left places like NYC. More than half the people I knew from high school live in New Jersey, Florida, Texas, North Carolina or Nassau county.

    Pittsburgh I think leads the nation in percentage of people sticking around. The big issue is inability to attract new people. The mass exodus from Pittsburgh happened 1975–1995. Today death is the biggest factor in any remaining shrinkage.

  52. schmange

    For the sake of argument:


    Are Ohioans the Okies of the Great Recession?

    My friend lives in Charleston and hangs out exclusively with other Ohioans.

  53. Sean Posey

    Rust Belt cities are not attracting immigrants in large numbers either. Let’s face it, that’s what they have to do. So many of these young professionals I meet don’t have or don’t plan to have kids, or if they do it’s not at the number needed to be at replacement level. Latino immigrants are not coming in large numbers, the white demographic–which is the dominant one in Rust Belt areas–is shrinking rapidly and African Americans are migrating back down south. These are ominous portends that will have to be addressed.

  54. I have a lot of family living in Charleston. I’m familiar with the anti-Ohio bent. But the anecdote doesn’t make Ohio or any of its cities major exporters of talent.

    People who do leave Ohio (no one is arguing that people don’t leave Ohio) end up in predictable places. You’ll find a lot of talent from Northeast Ohio in South Central Minnesota. Anyone want to guess why?

    Buckeyes as Gamecocks is easy to explain: Myrtle Beach. Even a small number of expats will really stand out because there isn’t much competition from other Rust Belt states. North Carolina? Different story.

  55. alki

    @ John Morris,

    There is no question that some American metro areas are sprawling faster than others but I tend to think that sprawl is a national phenomenon and hanging the problem all on Detroit is a bit unfair.

  56. Jim, I didn’t click the link yet but the data you site seems to stop in 2003, back before unemployment had gotten too bad in most of the midwest. Although, Michigan has had staggering rates for years.

    Could it be that the numbers of people leaving now is greater? I am noticing many more Clevelanders in Pittsburgh these days, but perhaps we are just more on the radar as a destination now.

  57. Could it be that the numbers of people leaving now is greater?

    Generally, the numbers of people leaving now (Great Recession) are much smaller than they were pre-recession. Even Michigan defies perception:

    http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showpost.php?p=4218223&postcount=29

    That’s the opinion of state demographer Ken Darga, the state’s leading authority on Michigan’s population by the numbers. He said Michigan has retained college graduates better than most states, even as the recession worsened.

    But since 2004, far fewer young college grads from other states have moved to Michigan than in previous years, creating a net loss. The number of those leaving Michigan actually has leveled off.

    Relatively low rates of outmigration are an indicator of economic distress. Sprawl isn’t driving people out of the Rust Belt. That’s nonsense.

  58. The link you gave in response to Angie earlier was about Ohio, not Michigan.

    Also, we both agree as does the letter, that lack of inflo is the greater problem.

  59. The link you gave in response to Angie earlier was about Ohio, not Michigan.

    Yes, it is about Ohio. But the unemployment problem was/is much worse in Michigan. I was trying to introduce some new information to the discussion.

  60. primenumber

    be a pathfinder invest in the area

  61. Liz Rohan

    On the one hand Basile is playing my song. I study and teach these issues, and have been for some years. On the other hand, from the point of view of a Metro Detroiter, and one who frequents the city of Detroit nearly every day, this author loses credibility for me with his lack of knowledge about the Metro area generally. Hence, the piece reads like a rant. Many Detroit suburbs are walkable. Here are some examples beside Birmingham and Ann Arbor: all of the Grosse Pointes, Saint Clair Shores, to some degree Dearborn, Wyandotte, to some degree Trenton, Royal Oak and–in a class by itself–Grosse Isle. Inner ring suburbs like several of these listed are vulnerable to sprawl all over the US (Check out the books Suburban Nation and/or Building Suburbia for starters). The author might also become familiar with/acknowledge very exciting trends among young, middle class young people who are moving into Detroit itself, and for the reasons he cites about suburbs. There are problems in Metro Detroit, in the US, and even globally, as a result of sprawl, and I predict aging Baby Boomers, who will eventually not be able to drive en masse to and fro, will require /demand our society to completely revamp our built environment. In the meantime, there is also quite a lot of good news to peruse, and coming from, yes, really, Detroit.

  62. TSR

    This author is right on track. I am a proud, native Michiganian who has now lived in Maryland for 15 years. I moved to the East Coast for work on what was to have been a 10 month assignment. I stayed because of walkable neighborhoods, high quality train service ( I can be at a show in NYC in 4 hours without having to drive or endure the horror of parking in NYC), and interesting historical and cultural sites.

    I loved Michigan when I lived there, but I never had a clue how car-bound I was there until I came out here. How many people in Michigan can walk to the grocery store? I do it 2x a week – not only do I buy healthy food, I make myself healthy in the act of the procuring the food!

    As much as I love my home state, the only thing that would bring me back would be to care for my parents. None of my friends out here who are not originally from Michigan would ever move to Michigan (with the possible exception of Ann Arbor), no matter how much money an employer offered. As much as I would like to tell them that their perceptions of Michigan are wrong, they aren’t. It is so sad…

  63. Liz,

    The guy who wrote the letter is also involved in the Woodward project video, just posted.

    https://rustwire.com/2011/03/14/the-woodward-project-a-new-model-for-detroit/

    The video seems to show lots of knowledge and appreciation for these places. From the video, and googling one can see that many like Royal Oak have plans and street grids that mostly pre-date the suburban era.

    I think, the point Andrew is making is that these places and the more walkable urban thinking that made them is not widely valued or capitalized on. Remember that the letter, was mostly addressed to the decision makers and planners in Troy.

  64. Brett Mac

    I went to grad school in Oakland County, and liked the area very much during my two years there. But I moved right after I graduated, predictably enough to San Francisco. Maybe 1 percent of my classmates stayed. Density and the perceived vibrancy it brings is a big part of the problem, and I think the author is right on the money in terms of recruiting and keeping talent in the area. Detroit may rise again, but not without a true civic rethinking of the area can be.

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  67. Letter in todays Times questions the finacial sustainability of most suburbs. Bronxville is a very wealthy suburb north of NYC.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/opinion/l16bronxville.html

    Re “Wealthy Suburb Cuts Corners to Keep a Lid on School Taxes” (front page, March 9):

    “Your article on the tax burden in Bronxville, N.Y., reinforced the seemingly common belief that overcompensated teachers are the cause of the problem, while ignoring the fundamental economic issue inherent in the American model of suburban development.

    American suburbs, which often have restrictive zoning banning multifamily housing and commercial development, simply can’t generate the revenues required to support the infrastructure and essential services necessary for their small population base.”

    Remember that Nasau county which is on average quite wealthy is in recievership and that most New Jersey communities–run by both Republicans and Democrats are suffering under huge property tax burdens.

    Suburban communities come in a wide variety of political administrations, but even many of the most frugal and responsible are having issues. Likewise, in contrast, NYC is hardly the most frugal entity but has much lower average property taxes. People move into NY to have lower taxes.

    My guess is the model has something structurally wrong with it.

  68. Too many people hold the false view that the suburban model works just fine for the “greedy white people”, and only hurts those left behind in the city. Actually, what one gets is a model not working well for almost anybody.

    I say almost anyone–in that the main people who benefit would be developers and contractors building more and more sprawl as people move further out, disposing of communities every few years–often as their taxes rise to pay the true infrastructure and school costs.

    One of the main reasons suburban communities refuse to chip in for wider regional projects and the central cities is because they are already financially stretched.

    • schmange

      Exactly:

      Too many people hold the false view that the suburban model works just fine for the “greedy white people”, and only hurts those left behind in the city. Actually, what one gets is a model not working well for almost anybody.

  69. Here’s the original Times article the Bronxville letter was responding to.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/09/business/09bronxville.html?_r=1

    As a NYC, resident, I went to camp with some kids from there, all of whom were–filthy rich. The Wikipedia ranks it as the 61st most wealthy community in the country with average family incomes around 200K. The region has also done pretty well on the jobs front with residents having a choice of jobs in NYC, the northern suburbs or Connecticut.

    If this is an issue for them, it’s pretty symbolic of a big problem all around. Likewise, MT Lebanon, the smug southern suburb of Pittsburgh is fighting over ways to cover costs for a new high school.

    Compare this with Forest Hills, a wealthy part of NYC (more mixed, wealthy and middle class) which also boasts of great schools with much lower property tax rates. The big office, apartment and commercial property in Manhattan carries the bulk of the city tax load.

  70. Steve Cooper

    The premise of this is so far off as to be tragic. Detroit was never an area that appealled to the uppercrust and probably never will be. The genuis of the city was the way it made it possible for ordinary people to live a better life than was possible for them elsewhere. It was a blue collar city, with everything that comes with it. It may not be as pretty as your snobbish tastes require, but it feed generations of children who might have gone hungry otherwise.

    The elitism of the uppercrust aside, if we could rebuild our manufacturing base by getting the federal government to return to the policies that succeeded in creating that base and abondoning the liberal garbage that has destroyed it, Detroit would once again become a blue collar mecca.
    If you are looking for bike trails and wide open spaces and a land without freeways, a land where cars are not considered a good thing, I suggest you look elsewhere. If you are truly interested in helping Detroit, do so with some understanding of what Detroit is and stop trying to turn it into San Francisco East.

  71. Dave

    This is true for most of the Midwest, and really most of the South that I’ve seen too. Detroit is certainly the worst-case example though. You could start in the Far-North suburbs near Oxford and Lake Orion and drive for 2 hours pretty much down to the state line and probably pass a minimum of 800-100 strip malls. The nicer neighborhoods would have a Starbucks in their strip mall, the bad neighborhoods will have Check Cashing and Pawn Shops.

    On the South… I’m an educated professional looking to get out of the Midwest right now for many of the reasons this blog talks about. I’ve done interviews in Georgia and South Carolina recently. Driving around looking at places to potentially live down there felt much like Michigan in the miles of suburban sprawl. In the South there are something actually worse imo… there’s the complete lack of zoning laws and parks. As soon as you’re on the fringes of suburbia down there you get a mile outside of town you’re driving by trailers on cinder blocks, broken-down buildings, and makeshift junkyards that even in the Midwest would never fly a half mile down the road from a massive subdivision full of $400K homes. Taxes are super low down there, but they have even fewer parks in a lot of areas. Trying to find a playground for our kids to play on in South Carolina meant driving to the local elementary school. At least where we’ve lived in Wisconsin and Michigan suburbia there are parks, bike and jogging trails, etc.

  72. @Steve Cooper

    “The elitism of the uppercrust aside, if we could rebuild our manufacturing base by getting the federal government to return to the policies that succeeded in creating that base and abondoning the liberal garbage that has destroyed it, Detroit would once again become a blue collar mecca.”

    Several important facts are missing from your logic.

    The area, the writer refers to actually comes close to leading the nation in manufacturing as a share of employment. They still make lot’s of computer chips, routers and other tech gear in Silicon Valley.

    Yes, it will be important to build back manufacturing in America, but the blunt reality is it’s very unlikely to be the blue collar employer of the marginally educated it once was. (That is unless you want to drop wages to sub-china levels)If you think there will be 60 thousand steel workers in the Mon Valley ever again, you have lost touch with reality.

  73. Me

    Move to Ann Arbor–it’s awesome here! WAY better than the Bay Area suburbs, where we lived after leaving high-priced San Francisco to start a family, like many people do. (P.S. The grass is always greener…)

  74. http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/jtf/JTF_HighTechEmpJTF.pdf

    “SILICON VALLEY IS THE EPICENTER OF THE NATION’S HIGH-TECH MANUFACTURING.

    In the San Jose metropolitan area, the heart of Silicon Valley, 12.6% of all jobs are in the computer and electronic products manufacturing industry—15 times the national concentration. Even in other high-tech centers such as Austin and Boston, high-tech manufacturing accounts for less than 3% of total employment. High-tech manufacturing accounts for two-thirds of the high-tech employment in the county.”

    I think the figure are slightly different now and I also disagree with the statement that manufacturing still claims the majority of high tech jobs. All depends on your definition of “high tech”. Just look at how many service jobs require software skills.

    Even so, the stats do show Silicon Valley to be a major area for manufacturing. In fact, a certain level of sprawl there is part of the natural need for large blocks of land for big plants.No way could all of this be cramed into San Fransisco. In spite of this, sprawl is lower there than in the Detroit area. The area is also changing to become more dense and transit oriented.

  75. And Ann Arbor has a big problem attracting needed talent from out-of-state.

  76. Andrew Basile

    Hello. I am the author of the post and wanted to clarify a few points for posterity.

    First, I have moved from California TO Michigan. The point was made that I’ve left Michigan. It’s just the opposite. I left CA to soilder it out in Michigan.

    Second, our office is in Troy but the firm had renewed a seven year lease the month after I joined. Not to pick on Troy, but it is not my choice of places to work.

    Interestingly, I proposed relocating the firm to a central city and received sharp push back from our employees. I did manage to help relocate one of our offices from a suburban setting to downtown Ann Arbor, which the employees there still complain about.

    Third, the question was raised how can you compare Detroit to SV. I would say, why not? Detroit was a great city a mere 40 years ago. It should aspire to be competitive with the best places in the world. Also, like Detroit, SV is a manufacturing center and highly suburbanized. SV to me is model for place that Detroit could aspire to.

    As for the comparative aesthetics of SV and Detroit, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but even after 6 years, for me getting off the plane at SFO is like a prision furlough after 4-6 weeks in suburban Detroit.

  77. Andrew Basile

    Reply to Mr. Steve Cooper,

    I must respectfully disagree with your position, that Detroit is just a blue collar town and its corollary that the improvements I suggest are elitist.

    Ironically, it is a bit elitist to suggest that people with blue collar jobs are better off in (or are presumed to be satisfied with) ugly suburban sprawl. I think everyone deserves a higher quality of life.

    Second, the region historically was not a benighted factory town but as recently as 1965 had a wonderful central city and worldclass cultural intuitions.

    Third, and most urgently, Metro Detroit’s economy IS knowledge-based today. Already. This is what people don’t understand. There are few unskilled factory jobs. They are essentially gone and most of the factories are closed. Today metro Detroit is an administrative and R&D service center for the automobile industry. The region has a desperate imperative to recruit and retain more knowledge workers. Everything in Metro Detroit stands to be lost without them and the people who will most especially suffer are the poor and uneducated, those who have the least mobility.

    A million talented, educated, smart young people have graduated from Detroit area high schools and colleges in the last 40 years and left. THAT I respectfully submit is the tragedy. Why on earth would it be a mistake to provide a thoughtful built environment that they would consider living in. Why should we suffer to exile generations of talented young people from our region because it was somehow ordained that the region is no more than a factory town.

  78. Andrew Basile

    Reply to Ms. Liz Rohan

    Your point is well taken but at the end of my piece I did cite the North Woodward corridor as a bright spot. I have lived in Birmingham for 6 years and am well acquainted with its charms. I also produced a youtube video advancing the idea of expanding these walkable communities. It can be found at

    Finally, I have spent many hours working with local civic groups to promote walkability and support transit in some of the communities that you mentioned.

    That said, I think unfortunately, the walkable communities in Metro Detroit are far from representative of the region and are themselves lacking in many respects as compared to competing cities nationally.

    The truth is, tens of thousands of young people who are familiarized with the region’s islands of walkability nevertheless flee without a backward glance to truly walkable, attractive centers like Chicago or SF. We have a long way to go.

    I would challenge you to cross Woodward in downtown Birmingham, particularly at the well-marked pedestrian crossway near the AAA building. Actually, please don’t it’s too dangerous, an unfortunate testimony to the state’s car oriented culture.

  79. Paul

    I have a hard time being sympathetic to an argument made by a patent attorney.
    While there are good points made from everyone, there’s too many generalizations, and Troy MI, is never going to be a cheaper Manhattan.

    Paul

  80. Erica

    As someone who grew up in West Bloomfield and then the more suburban part of Ann Arbor, this really struck a chord. I will be honest and confess that the main reason I moved away was the weather (severe seasonal depression: I love my hometown… in June! But it’s also true that even in Ann Arbor there are not that many jobs if you aren’t a doctor or university researcher.)

    I think that growing up where I did was part of what made me such a vehement urbanist later in life. I hated the sprawl! I hated not being able to walk to see my friends or leave my house to go anywhere without parental chauffering. I hated the endless vistas of strip mall after strip mall all looking exactly the same as soon as you left the Ann Arbor/Ypsi bubble. Occasionally I would visit Chicago via train (Detroit via train not being an option) and marvel at the architecture and sense of life there. I lived in Chicago for two years, in an affordable area that was nonetheless very well served by transit. Loved it. Yet Chicago started from the same place as Detroit.

    Currently I live in a somewhat sketchy part of Oakland because, yes, the Bay Area is expensive and yes, I could afford a whole house in Canton for what I pay for one room in the East Bay, but the ability to walk and bike to my daily needs is truly beyond price and top priority for me. I am by no means “uppercrust” and neither is Oakland but it is a place that is actively working to become more dense and transit-accessible and revive its downtown. Walkability is about building around humans, not cars, and it’s simply prejudice to think that only rich people are capable of appreciating that lifestyle. More often, it’s that only rich people have the option to choose it.

  81. Andrew Basile

    Reply to alki.

    Your points are well taken, but the intended audience of my email was my fellow Oakland County Republicans. The old guard. I originally wrote this email to a group of 2-3 people, one of whom sent it on to a blogger.

    So, you mention that complaints are well-known and, by implication, that raising them is trite.

    The complaints may be well known but they are ignored or dismissed by many suburban leaders and residents as fringe comments. The Executive of Oakland County, perhaps the most powerful politician in Metro Detroit, publicly states on the county website: “We love sprawl and want more of it”. So, unfortunately, these points — while seemingly trite — need to be repeated by as many people as possible, especially by business people.

    I agree that positive thinking is important. Please see my youtube video for a constructive, supportive view on improving the area.

  82. Andrew Basile

    I want to thank everyone for taking the time to read my posting and to comment on it. I carefully studied all the remarks, which were very helpful in refining my own thinking. I have posted a few rebuttals to clarify my positions.

    I wish the residents of Ohio the best of luck in their work to address similiar issues that they may have.

    Andy Basile

  83. Right, Silicon Valley is still very much a manufacturing area, and likely typical of one might look like in the future.

    A certain degree of sprawl is inevitable. Personally, I can see such potentially dense network of manufacturing developing in the area north of Pittsburgh up to Youngstown with Pittsburgh playing a vital role in research/brainpower.

    I say north and west because, Ohio and points west has always been where Pittsburgh steel became manufactured goods. Ohio has a commodity we don’t in lots of dry mostly flat land.

    However, this can be a dense rail oriented networked corridor of towns.

    My vision for this type of connection is why my blog focuses on the area between Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

  84. Craig Barrow

    I’ve lived in Waterford all of my 52 years, and the author nailed it. Our officials are content with the status quo, so there is no real progress, no pride in the community. There is so much trash generated by the stores and the slobs who empty their ashtrays while idling at the lights. Is there ever a coordinated clean-up day? Never. Just their gatherings where they pat each other on the back. As far as being a pedestrian in Waterford, just last month, the supervisor said the sidewalks aren’t plowed because someone would actually use them, and if they fell, the township can be held liable. So just dont plow ’em! Make the people walk in the road. But, the police have allowed illegal passing on the shoulder, tearing up the road edges and more importantly, endangering lives. Again, the police allow passing on the right, illegal in Michigan. By the way, as a cyclist who last year rode 3000 miles around Pontiac, Waterford, Keego/Sylvan Lake, Union Lake, White Lake and Clarkston, I will say the local drivers are most courteous. I ride straight and true, use hand signals and wear bright clothing. Let’s go for a ride, that’s my idea of ‘quality-of-life’.

  85. Almost every desirable corporation in America is located in a clean modern low density suburb. Newer companies are choosing to locate in suburban towns and even villages. IBM, Apple, Google and Microsoft are all in suburbs that offer free parking and fast car access, first class malls and shopping, nearby countryside.

    Many of these companies took area that was near farmland and transformed it into the modern exurbopolis that their home suburbs became: Cupertino, Redmond, Armonk and Mountain View are world famous business locations.

    If you don’t have a world class location, don’t blame “sprawl” or Michigan…blame yourself, for not Creating rather than Demanding, the place that your future employees would like to live in.

    If ever there were the raw materials to make a new Redmond, or Cupertino, it would be right where you are now. But you have to make it happen. Not someone else.

  86. Valeria

    Being a long time Californian in both Southern Ca (huge sprawl) and SF/Berkeley (high density, much life), and my childhood in New England Cities during ‘white flight’ 60’s…I am impressed by Andrews observations, and I really do feel it is not about a particular ‘where’ but that sprawl = good in the mindset, when ironically, it is driving those who are awake to their opportunities to find them elsewhere, this is killing these places.
    So I don’t think it needs to be debated about which suburb it is, most of the US is this way and suffering accordingly.
    I think Andrew Basile has opened a debate on the direction that our cities have taken in the 20th century and by design, does not fit us now in the 21st, and that we might start redesigning, might start looking around at what is thriving and distill some design points to try on, and, since denser places, with walkability, with parks for open space, are currently seen as quality of life elements over the big back yard, what better place to try that on than in big failing sprawly places?

  87. Lindsey

    As someone who has lived most of her life in Michigan, with the exception of two years in California from 2006-2008, I can’t help but feel a bit defensive of my home state.

    I am in total agreement with the comments about sprawl. I sadly watched the farm land and woods behind my childhood home get bulldozed over to make room for housing (So many condos! Ugh!) and strip malls. I hate the strip malls equally.

    I’m also in total agreement about the lack of mass transit. Oh, how I would love this option!

    Much of Michigan, however, is indeed very beautiful and I found myself missing it so much. California to me seemed a state filled with places and sights…and that’s precisely what made it seem so darn distant the whole time I was there. Metro Detroit isn’t all that pretty–when I go home there (I’m working in northern MI now) I feel like I’m in a gigantic parking lot–but that’s not remotely most of the state.

    I think there are many reasons why people wouldn’t want to come to Michigan and a lot of it has to do with many non-Michiganders being totally unfamiliar with all that makes this state wonderful and beautiful. I think it is going to be even tougher to get people to come to the state now that this absolutely absurd bill has been passed by both the House and the Senate. I mean, who in their right mind would want to come to a place where they may no longer be able to elect their local officials or where their entire new town or city might be disincorporated or where they might not have any sort of collective bargaining rights?

    I think the OP has some great points, but I do love this state, and the tone makes me want to go to bat for Michigan. I’d like to be able to stay in this state if I can continue to find work here. I’d like to be part of the effort, like the OP, to revitalize this state. I can’t remember who was the source of the quote (paraphrased) “Don’t hate what is, love all that COULD be,” but I think it is very apt here. Let’s put our energy in those terms. In my experience, it tends to draw brighter things to us much faster.

  88. Pingback: Elsewhere « Visualingual

  89. John Bailo,

    Google’s office in Pittsburgh is in a renovated former factory in the city itself, likewise, it’s huge office in Manhattan is in a similar building on the West Side. I believe they also have an office in Downtown Ann Arbor.

    Intel has also opened an office/research lab on the CMU campus in Pittsburgh.

    Plainly not “every major corporation” is choosing either all urban or all suburban locations.

    It doesn’t take a lot of knowledge about the Bay area to know that there just isn’t enough space to locate all those offices in San Francisco itself.

  90. Mike Cohn

    I’m going to put the blame 50% on the people of metro Detroit/Michigan/midwest mentality/et al.

    They became comfortable with mediocrity, voted for it, spent money to accumulate more of it, allowed leaders to perpetuate it. And they didn’t travel out of state to see what better places were like. If the did travel, it was to some family reunion “down south” or “up north” which doesn’t look or act much different.

    Or if they did go to real cities different from what they were familiar with that weren’t boogered down by stupidity, they were so mentally/spiritually/emotionally incapable of embracing new ways and new ideas that they rejected it. And returned home to the comfort of mediocrity.

    And this is the culture that allowed terrible American cars to be produced, reflected by the comfort with mediocrity that it’s people suffer from.

    That’s why I left.

  91. Go Blue

    Mike Cohn whoever the hell you are, that was an insult directly to the people of a place you called home? I bet you’re not that nice of a guy where ever you are now.

    What did you do while you were in Michigan to solve the so called problems you saw? Did you volunteer and help fix things? I bet you were too busy to do that. No, you just sit here and throw stones from your glass house and then take your toys and leave the playground when you can’t have your way.

    We don’t live in Michigan because we are “satisfied with mediocrity” we live here because of the quality of life and cost of living. So what if there are power lines and strip malls? That’s a fact of life. You don’t go around calling an entire state stupid just because you don’t like these things. Go live in a cave somewhere that doesn’t have stores or electricity!

  92. schmange

    I get what Cohn’s saying. Look at those pictures above Go Blue and tell me that’s not a piss poor way to build a community. The fact that Detroiters and Clevelanders haven’t demanded their tax dollars be more thoughtfully spent says something about those communities, like it or not.

    Past generations of Detroiters built some of the most beautiful architecture in the world. More recent generations have let it crumble in favor of Wal-Marts and vinyl-siding mcmansions next to the interstate.

    Detroit and Cleveland aren’t the only cities to be totally overrun by the type of cheap and soulless development our throwaway culture has sold us. But they do make good examples of how miserable and deadening those kind of environments can be.

  93. WalkableWilliam

    It’s amusing to me that some people here have mentioned that Ann Arbor is making strides in terms of density. Clearly you don’t live here. While the city does a decent job of creating a sense of place, it’s a place that just as defiantly caters to cars and older people. Young professionals are fleeing Ann Arbor (in the last 10 years the city has lost nearly 25% of that demographic) because frankly the city acts as if it doesn’t want them. Try to find a place to rent to live near the downtown. If it isn’t crappy student housing or super upscale condos it doesn’t exist. Any attempts to create loft living spaces gets defeated but boomer nimbys. SEMCOG predicts that while Ann Arbor will add something like 15K jobs in the ext 15 years the population will only grow by 500. Local employers struggle to find talent that’ll stick around, the U now draws 60% of its employees from outside Ann Arbor because density is fought so vehemently that housing is just too damn expensive and people are unwilling to relocate from other parts of the country to take jobs here. My mom has a friend who runs a lab that employees 35 people. Average pay is around $60K. She says their turn-over is ridiculous and only 2 of their 35 employees lives within the city. Ann Arbor may be better than most of Michigan but that’s like saying being stabbed is so much better than being shot. The same “we don’t need to change anything we’re already perfect” mentality is alive and well here as well.

  94. Go Blue

    No I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the pictures above. Somebody took pictures of telephone poles that’s all. Do you want to pay to have those poles put underground? No, not with your money and I don’t want to pay for it with my money either. So we agree on that much.

    You and Cohn seem to think that there is something wrong with Walmart and suburbia and having affordable places to raise families. Maybe you two are single? Well in all these “sophisticated” cities you can’t touch a house for under a half million and they don’t have stores that sell food that’s affordable. Every store is a Whole Foods or something like that. Meijers is overpriced, so is Kroger and Farmer Jack went out of business.

    We’re in a rock and a hard place here in Michigan and to be honest with you, that’s why I voted Republican because I don’t know what else to do. Maybe the new guy can do something different for Michigan than what we got the last 8 years.

    The quality of the cars isn’t bad we are improving it all the time and it wasn’t ever as bad as they say it was and it wasn’t our fault either it’s the Japanese who dumped their cars here and the people who don’t have loyalty that hurt out jobs NOT US!!!

    I don’t like the way people are changing here these days. They don’t have respect for the way things used to be and that doesn’t mean architecture and old buildings because people just don’t want that anymore. We need affordable places and if that means vinyl siding I’d rather have that than stone masonry so get real.

    If this is how people are going to be because of the internet then I wish Ford Motor Company would have never bought everybody for worked for it a computer and internet service. We were doing fine before the internet and we had unity and loyalty and nobody complained about all this stuff like you do on your blog. People were happy and fine with the way things were. You never heard anybody like Cohn talking like that to anybody because if you did, you’d get your butt kicked.

  95. Heather

    Detroit isn’t just ugly. It’s poor and violent.

    Go Blue, the kind of violence you mention in your post is exactly the kind of violence I DON’T want to raise my kids around. And since Whole Foods carries the only milk I’ve found which doesn’t taste awful in the winter, I’m not too inclined to move to a place where I can’t buy it.

    Move to Detroit, folks, where the food is crap and they’ll beat your kids up! Sounds *great*.

  96. Heather

    PS, Go Blue: People didn’t start buying Japanese cars because they were disloyal, but because the Japanese cars were BETTER.

    You may like a clunky, ugly car that gets terrible gas mileage and breaks down often, but most people don’t. Ultimately, the company that makes the best car will sell the most cars, regardless of whether you or I happen to like those cars.

    Same goes for cities. You may love Walmart and hate Whole Foods, but that’s completely irrelevant to the question of attracting young professionals, who are much more likely to shop at Whole Foods and hate Walmart. You may be okay with poverty and crime, but most folks trying to raise families aren’t.

    If you want Detroit to keep dying, don’t change a thing!

  97. schmange

    Go blue I’m glad you commented. There’s one thing I agree with you about and that’s american cars. I cannot stand to hear American workers put down the way they have been. I am single but I will tell you right now I will never live in a place like the one above. I own an affordable house in the city of cleveland far from monstrosities like that. The truth is it’s expensive for Michigan to build new subpar communities and it’s expensive to let the city die. It’s expensive to commute from distant suburbs and it’s expensive to see your home price decline. Michigan and Cleveland have spent a lot on their cities’ undoing even though the stuff they built it cheaply made and cheap looking. It was a dumb way to do things. Other cities are getting smarter.

  98. schmange

    I’ll tell you something else. I love Michigan. It’s beautiful. I am one of the few people I know who will tell you I love Detroit too. But I loathe Troy. And I love Cleveland but I loathe medina. Troy is indistinguishable from anywhere else in the country and by national standards it’s mediocre same for 9 out of 10 suburbs in Cleveland.

  99. Jeff Hill

    Here is an interesting article along the same lines (only the opposite) of a new design center (with creative professionals from four of Kent County’s largest employers sharing space), that opened recently in downtown Grand Rapids. Employees that were being moved there first had reservations about parking and the new commuter. After a few months, they apparently can’t pry them away.

    http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20110316/C03/303169997/know-and-tell-companies-find-safe-place-to-share-secrets-for-mutual

  100. Right!

    I don’t have time to do an extended comment, but there are very real business advantages to higher density environments that allow more collaboration.

    I’m trying to sidestep a lot of the comments about what places fit which tastes. The fact is that there are some real advantages in terms of costs and ease of netwoking that are very important.

    http://business-journal.com/business-incubators-nature-is-to-nurture-p18372-1.htm

    A story on the successful business incubator in Youngstown.

  101. Go Blue

    I’m not trying to threaten anybody, I’m just saying what used to happen when you said something that wasn’t loyal or respectful. Before the internet things were just better and people knew to shut their mouth that’s all. Now you have all these people complaining about every little thing because they have too much knowledge and don’t know what to do with it. It’s like being the fat kid at school and then seeing some fat kid in a movie with the hot chick and then you go around thinking you can have the hot chick too, but you can’t.

    Michigan shouldn’t be like other places and the midwest shouldn’t either. We don’t need 4 story condos on top of stores everywhere, that’s not what made suburbs good places to raise families. Troy is an upscale place if you look at the stores that are there and the school district is great. I don’t know what you are all complaining about. It sounds like you got Starbucks on the brain and think everybody else is supposed to like Starbucks just because all the yuppies do.

    Yuppies didn’t make Detroit a great place to live and I don’t think they will if we let them redesign everything to look like what they want from places they saw on the internet or in the movies. If you want to live in Seattle, move to Seattle, don’t try to make Detroit like Seattle.

    There’s nothing wrong with driving a little bit to get to where you want to go if it means better living away from the poor, away from the industrial areas, away from the packed in noisy places. People talk about being packed in like sardines like it’s a good thing, because it’s density and that’s supposed to be good for the environment and all that.

    Well, why not just have hydrogen fuel cell cars and then there’s no problem with the way things are laid out? We can have suburbs and quiet and still get to places. These battery electric cars are bad for the environment because a Hummer uses less energy then a Prius to make the battery. Fuel cells only emit water.

  102. Jeff Hill

    “Living away from the poor?” Wow, nice philosophy Go Blue. God forbid people of different economic means live near each other.

    There are a couple of problems with your theories.

    ) Families with kids are not the primary drivers of the economy any more. No one is saying you have to live in a 4 story condo, but many of the new drivers of the economy want to live in compact, walkable, livable areas served by transportation alternatives other than having to drive everywhere.
    ) The Troy area has an office vacancy rate of nearly 30%. Perceptions of prosperity can be deceiving.
    ) Oakland County is losing population now. Apparently the model you tout is not as successful as you think.
    ) I probably would have agreed with you 20 – 30 years ago when large employers, that need a lot of space and ample parking, were creating most of the jobs. That’s not the case any more, and only small companies and startups have created any real numbers of jobs over the last decade (all over the country).

    And Starbucks sucks, in my opinion.

  103. Stephen Gross

    This is a really fascinating comment thread. I’ve spent many years ruminating on whether any American city–in the midwest, anyway–will ever truly embrace urbanism in its development.

    I would like to believe that “young professionals” prefer “urban lifestyles”, but I’m skeptical. Dallas is growing, and not because of its urban amenities. I live in Minneapolis and work in a high-tech field (medtech), but the vast majority of my colleagues live in the burbs. When I ask them why, they repeat the platitudes I’ve been hearing all along: “We prefer more space / more quiet; houses are cheaper; cities are dirty and dangerous; etc.”. I’m not sure what to do about any of this.

    Metro Detroit certainly faces a very challenging mix of problems. The economic decline has been significant, and persisted over several decades. The urban amenities–which exist in some places–simply aren’t substantial enough in quality or quantity to appeal to potential in-migrants.

    Anyway, unfortunately I don’t have any great new ideas for the Detroit region. The best bet is probably to open up zoning, and make hard choices about which resources & infrastructural investments to prioritize.

    • schmange

      Yo, Steve. Come down to my neighborhood in Cleveland, the Detroit Shoreway, and you’ll see whether Midwesterners can embrace urbanism. The question is, can our leaders?

  104. Tom Antor

    Check out Lancaster, PA’s solution to these problems ….

    Lancaster, PA Ag Preservation Chair, Gene Garber
    Coming to Grand Rapids, MI March 24-25th, 2011

    Kent County, MI

    Former major league pitcher and current Lancaster County Preservation Board Chairman, Gene Garber will be in Grand Rapids, MI to meet with local officials and media regarding the much publicized agriculture preservation efforts both here and across the country.

    Garber helped jump start the incredibly successful preservation program in Lancaster, PA which has since elevated them as the world leaders in this arena along with serving as the catalyst for Kent County’s new Purchase of Development Rights (Ag preservation program).

    Kent County has lost more than 25% of its farmland since 1982 and the agricultural preservation issue has been one of the most hotly contested political topics in recent memory. Mr. Garber has helped successfully navigate the Lancaster program through the same type of turbulent political waters that Kent County is currently experiencing and gives extraordinary insight to this issue which has put West Michigan’s efforts in the spotlight across Michigan.

    Gene Garber
    Major League baseball Pitcher
    Henry Eugene Garber (born November 13, 1947 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania) is a former sidearm relief pitcher in Major League Baseball. He was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 20th round of the 1965 amateur draft (The first MLB draft ever) and pitched for the Pirates, the Kansas City Royals, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Atlanta Braves. (continued on next page…)
    Upon his retirement in 1988, his 931 career pitching appearances ranked 5th in major league history, trailing Hoyt Wilhelm (1070), Kent Tekulve (1013), Lindy McDaniel (987), and Rollie Fingers (944).
    On August 1, 1978 just after being traded from Philadelphia to Atlanta, Pete Rose was in the midst of his famous hitting streak but was hitless going into the 9th. In dramatic fashion, Garber, on a 2-2 change-up ended Rose’s hitting streak at 44 consecutive games.
    Garber ranks second on the Atlanta Braves all time save list, behind John Smoltz.
    His most effective pitch was a change-up, which he effectively delivered from an unusual, herky-jerky motion, turning his back to the batter before delivering the ball in a side-arm, “submarine-style” manner.
    His best season came for the 1982 Atlanta Braves’ National League West-division winning team. He recorded a career-high 30 saves, along with a 9-10 won-lost record, and finished seventh in the Cy Young Award balloting.
    In 1979, for the Braves, he recorded 25 saves, but also 16 losses, an unusually high number for a closer.
    Garber is a farmer in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, where he and his sons raise poultry for eggs, Emu for “Emu Oil” and grow corn, wheat, soybeans and barley. Prior to the 2009 season, he was invited by the Braves to be a guest instructor for a week during spring training, working with fellow side-armer Peter Moylan.[1]
    Garber is currently the Chairman of the Lancaster County Agricultural Preservation Board and is a member of the Lancaster Farmland Trust, which combined have protected more than 1,000 farms and 75,000 acres (300 km2) of farmland from development, more than any other county in the United States
    He is a 1969 graduate of Elizabethtown College.

    For more information including updated event schedule, please contact Kent County Commissioner Tom Antor at (616) 887-2614 (h) or 690-3121 (c) / toma@iserv.net

  105. Ann

    So, how many persons 25-35yrs of age ran for public office? If you want to change something; get yourself in the position to influence that change.

  106. Stephen Gross

    “Make hard choices about which resources & infrastructural investments to prioritize.”

    Well doesn’t that expose the socialist nature of this type of development? The initially cheaper price of the house does not include the taxpayer funded infrastructure.

    Once again we see the disturbing new American form of capitalism in which profits are privatised and costs are socialised.

    It’s a big LOL on the oblivious people who think socialism will always work for the “common good”. We now have a system in which keeping alive sprawl works politically even if it’s a disaster on every other level.

    By political logic, the people invested in the areas least likely to support their own infrastructure costs “need it”, the most and will be most active in fighting for it.

  107. Jordan

    Isn’t basing your company in Troy, the center of the so called “soul-crushing sprawl” sort of contributing to the problem? I find it hard to take anything this guy says seriously, as he sits from his office park office looking over a surface parking lot, which looks over an 8 lane road which looks over a another parking lot and another office park. Perhaps instead of writing a manifesto on everything that is wrong with this region, he could spend more effort into putting his money where his mouth is and relocate into a less soul crushing environment. One where employees can walk to lunch, parks, shops, restaurants. Employees in downtown Ann Arbor, Detroit and many other areas enjoy these amenities daily.

    Michigan certainly isn’t utopia, but until people start looking at what they can do to create the Michigan they want and stop expecting someone else to do it for them, we’ll remain in neutral.

  108. I currently live in Ann Arbor. If you have an office here, then you should know that Ann Arbor is not detroit. Personally I think detroit is done for, the cost to rebuild that place would be astronomical. Sure, I would love to bulldoze the place down, then do something like the venus project (http://www.thevenusproject.com) and convert the area into a beautiful city. But as you say, we have a reality problem. The reality is we don’t have the money to do it. In fact, I honestly just got off the phone with a friend an hour ago who literally was in detroit near the renaissance center to attend the detroit maker faire meeting and was robbed by a group of 5 guys, took his laptop and wallet. He is the CEO of the company we are trying to launch, and he just decided to go home instead of the meeting. He was only trying to do good and 5 hooligans put a stop to that. Go Detroit!

    I think we have to be a little more realistic. I mentioned before Ann Arbor is not detroit. In fact if you pull the latest census stats, I have yet to find a more educated city ratio wise than Ann Arbor, MI. 69% of the population has bachelor degrees.
    There is tons of room for open space:
    http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Ann+Arbor,+Michigan+48108&ll=42.361588,-83.49472&spn=0.827001,2.113495&t=h&z=10

    I’m sick of hearing about detroit. Saving detroit. Mass transit. Wah-wah-wah. People need to be realist. I’m not saying give up, but change your fucking game plan people. It sounds exactly what you are already doing, and this sir is by far the best article I have read on detroit in a long time. People need to focus on the future and not today. Look into cities like Ann Arbor, or grand rapids that are still thriving even in this crap hole of an economy. Anytime I hear someone mention a mass transit system in detroit I can’t help but shake my head. There isn’t anywhere to go? What about buses? Are those not mass transit? The problem is the infrastructure, it’s not setup for mass transit as you mentioned in your article. But if we learned from our mistakes we could turn Ann Arbor into that place. Instead of people driving from surrounding areas into detroit to work, why not to ann arbor, the distance is about the same and if planned correctly could be done very economically, where you would have one of the highest valued colleges in the nation (UofM), in addition to tons of technical talent. I think the problem with detroit is that most of the jobs that have been done over the last 30-40 years can or has been replaced with automation or outsourced. People cry about it but they bring no value to the table.

    Now anyone reading my comment probably thinks I’m some trust fund ann arbor pretentiousness hipster that smells my own farts. In reality I grew up in the woods in northern michigan, I know what it’s like to miss open spaces, I lived in the U.P. for 7 years, and a day doesn’t go by where I don’t think about summers up there. Detroit looks like the apocalypse has already happened there, I haven’t heard a valid reason from someone yet as to why we need to save it. I can say this first hand as I’ve spent a lot of time in plants doing support for camera systems.

    All great civilizations have fallen, they weren’t rebuilt, they were reformed in other places.

  109. Anthony,

    The Venus project link shows more of the same futurama garbage non thinking that helped make Detroit what it became. Just how big are those central apartment buildings? What would it be like to live in one. How does one walk out of the endless curvy parks? How does one get a cup of coffee–meet anyone or buy groceries? If auto’s are the planned form of transport–replace those nice green parks with curvy parking lots and garages.

    A first step towards a better world will come by limiting the gun toting space cadets of the world’s dreams by limiting their control of other people’s lives and property.

    That being said, there is some truth to what you are saying. A real revival in Michigan has to come through the creation of many livable places. Ann Arbor does have many underleveraged vital assets.Urbanism as an idea needs to grow in many places.

    If you look at the Woodward corridor video, you can see it’s realistic that lots of people will not be moving back into Detroit right away and offers a plan to create a series of resonably dense, connected transit oriented towns.

    Jordan,

    The author of the letter did not have total control of the choice of office location.

    “Second, our office is in Troy but the firm had renewed a seven year lease the month after I joined. Not to pick on Troy, but it is not my choice of places to work.

    Interestingly, I proposed relocating the firm to a central city and received sharp push back from our employees. I did manage to help relocate one of our offices from a suburban setting to downtown Ann Arbor, which the employees there still complain about.”

  110. Recipe for an American Renaissance: Eat in diners. Ride trains. Shop on Main Street. Put a porch on your house. Live in a walkable community.

    I’ve been saying this for almost twenty years. Nice to see the concept of walkability and sustainable living finally starting to get some traction. Read The Geography of Nowhere” when you get the chance. It was the shot heard round the cul-de-sac.

  111. Cher

    Upon my graduation from Eastern Michigan University in 2005, I took a job in Indianapolis out of necessity. Leaving Michigan (where I was born and raised) was a terrifying prospect, but the only way to get a job in my field (which is technology design, BTW). Eventually I relocated to Chicago, with plans to put down permanent roots here.

    While there may be opportunities in Michigan for someone with my skills, in the six years since I graduated, all but 2 of those with the same major in my graduating class have moved out of state. There are only so many of us who can work in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, or Birmingham.

    The idea of returning to a sinking ship is very unappealing to someone who lives in an urban setting, blocks from a vibrant downtown and public transit. Although I fervently wish I could talk myself into moving back to Michigan, I just can’t accept resuming the lower “Quality of Life” I had six years ago.

    If those who claim to love Michigan would actually try putting some love back into the state and “romancing” those of us who have jumped ship to greener pastures, maybe we’ll get somewhere to save the state. Otherwise, just as green is the new black, Michigan will be the new Mississippi.

  112. Liz Rohan

    Hello Andrew: Thanks for your reply to my thread. I understand better now the context of your letter and, like I said, you are playing my song. I teach college students and as a former young person myself back in the day, I was not educated in how sprawl works. I lived in cities or walkable neighborhoods and didn’t have a car until I was was 28 years old. That gives me an odd perspective when also living in Metro Detroit, in spurts when also a young person. The latest census shows how vulnerable the largely, in design, walkable neighborhoods are in Metro Detroit–closer to the center. While I don’t see a widespread interest in moving back to the center, I have observed this impetus on the part of a group of young and old people moving into the city of Detroit–a fragile enterprise. So I thought it was worth acknowledging!

  113. Lori

    I don’t pretend to be any sort of an expert on urban development or planning, but I have lived in several major urban centers in the U.S. and grew up just 2 blocks north of 8 mile in one of the oldest suburbs of Detroit (Hazel Park). I currently live in Dallas. The sprawl being referred to is in no way unique to Detroit, nor is it, in my opinion, the cause of Detroit’s decline/demise. It is everywhere, and is the natural consequence of our culture’s insatiable appetite for more comfort, more convenience, more space, bigger houses, newer everything. In Dallas, things are not as old as in Detroit. I live on the edge of the developed area. Between me and downtown Dallas are miles and miles of just what was described in the essay on Detroit: freeways, strip malls, indoor malls, restaurant rows, neighborhoods, power lines…. And on the other side of me, toward what is still pasture land dotted with grazing cattle and what is left of old homesteads are major construction projects — towering highway interchanges being built, massive retail chains and shopping centers going in, and of course huge new houses. The only thing that has even a slight chance of stopping all this sprawling madness is if we all get a healthy dose of perspective and realize just how unbelievably wealthy we really are. The other major urban center I have lived in is Mexico City, which wrestles Tokyo as being the largest city in the world in terms of population. Take any of our major U.S. cities, pour concrete over everything, build two or three houses in between you and your neighbor’s house, dig huge open canals throughout the entire thing and fill them with raw sewage, and you have just a tiny idea of what their urban sprawl looks (and smells) like. My neighbors earned $500 a month, and that was in a middle class neighborhood. Most of us in the U.S. have NO IDEA what the rest of the world suffers. So I find this whole discussion of “attracting talent” and spending fortunes rebuilding a city to make it prettier so beautiful people will move in just a little disturbing. Let’s all take a good look at what we have, let’s try to make it better, but honestly, let’s focus on helping the people that really need the help, not making our already cushy lives even more comfy. I respect the author of the essay for his commitment to helping start new businesses, but I think the focus also has to involve individuals in need, and it HAS to involve changing our culture’s indulgent, self-serving attitudes. And you know how that happens — with a good long talk to the person in the mirror.

  114. Jeff

    According to Andrew Jr, his daddy’s company does not accurately portray what they think about the metro Detroit area….read down below. Taken straight from the company web site.

    Andrew, you may want to update the company web site to reflect your thoughts?

    The problem is that there is always an arrogant few that want to be associated with the best of things rather then be proud of where they are from and stick up for the home team because its beneath them. Will these people soon be talking trash about our country after they have moved to a “better one”? Oh wait, Johnny Depp has already started that revolution.

    Andrew, not sure what type of talent you are looking for? Do they have to have a JD from Harvard or Yale? Becuase I know there are many folks at MSU, Wayne, U of D Law that would be happy to have work coming out of law school this semester.

    This state just like other has its issues but it is great and full of people with good character, soul and grit. I have confidence that we will prevail and when we do…please…stay in Palo Alto.

    Troy, Michigan

    Downtown Detroit

    Troy is a technology and business center for the greater Detroit area. It is a prosperous city of 86,000 and offers outstanding shopping and dining within walking distance of Young Basile’s office. While Troy is a newer city, the adjacent cities of Birmingham and Royal Oak have vibrant historic downtowns. The city of Detroit with cultural attractions, professional sports and abundant entertainment venues is 30 minutes away. Detroit Metro Airport is just 45 minutes away and offers nonstop air service to over 160 cities in the Americas, Asia and Europe.

    Troy is the very heart of Automation Alley, the corridor of research and development extending across Southeast Michigan. With over 400 technology–based companies employing 40,000 engineers and scientists, Automation Alley has established the region a global leader in automotive, industrial and robotics technology.

    Troy from our office

    Downtown Birmingham

    Troy and its surrounding communities provide a wide range of great living options, from urban to suburban to rural, all within a half hour commute of our office. Troy offers an exceptional quality of life, including good schools, affordable housing, moderate traffic and a very low crime rate. In fact Troy is ranked by the FBI as among the country’s safest cities of its size.

    Michigan is the Midwest’s premier outdoor vacation destination with four recreational seasons, plenty of outdoor activities and nearly 100 state parks. The state has over 1500 miles of coastline, more than any other state except Alaska and Hawaii. There are four ski resorts and two hundred lakes within a one hour drive of Troy.

  115. LOL Jeff, you have a sense of humor.

    Could a company that still has a major office in a place, trash it or be totally honest about it’s drawbacks on their website? He did say they needed to recruit people. This is what politicians say–all the employers are happy, nobody complained to us.

    Fact is that, you won’t know what hit you till the moving van pulls up and the for lease sign comes out. Andrew is being much more honest than one would normally expect.

    It’s also clear from his letter and comments that he does see significant positives/opportunities in Michigan.

  116. Cristen Gonzalez

    Having read your letter I’m a little offended. I was born and raised in Michigan. I live here, I work here and I raise a family here. This state is not as horrible as you make it out to be. Yes our economy is bad, we can’t help that, but we’re slowly getting better. As far as the state, it’s a beautiful state. We have lakes, parks, national forests, metro parks. Our Great Lakes are some of the most beautiful lakes in the United States and second to Alaska we have the most coastline. Have you ever seen Higgins Lake? It’s compaired to the Caribbean because of it’s aqua blue color. So things are sprawled out, so we don’t have much public transportation (It’s the Motor City, heard of the “Big Three”) We do have the Smart Bus (Public Transportation http://www.smartbus.org) that people can take to work if they wish. There are routes all over Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties. Our state isn’t dead as you make it out to be there is plenty to do from Detroit to Royal Oak to Ann Arbor to Birmingham to Novi to Dearborn. If you want to go to nature all you have to do is drive 1 to 2 or more hours north and it’s a whole new world. Not only do we have all of the lower peninsula but we have the beautiful upper peninsula as well. Please don’t short sell Michigan. Your few pictures only show some streets, why not show some pictures of Lake Michigan or Mackinac Island or Traverse City? How about Frankenmuth, Hartwick Pines or Lake Superior? You forgot to mention the 18 miles of Edward Hines Drive that goes from Dearborn to Northville that is one continuous park. It is full of lakes, it runs along the Rouge River it has walking paths and biking paths. Hines Drive is gorgeous in the fall; 18 miles of beautiful red, yellow and orange trees everywhere. Take your blinders off and open your eyes and take a different look at Michigan because you are certainly missing something.

  117. It’s unfortunate that southeast Michigan is such a lousy place to grow your business. I’d recommend getting in touch with the folks at the Michigan Main Street center (michiganmainstreetcenter.com). They could probably recommend some places in Michigan that retain the charm sorely lacking in your current location. Not all of Michigan is a morass of asphalt lots, ugly boxes, and eight lane axle-eaters.

  118. Matt Eff

    This is exactly why I’m moving as soon as I have my degree finished and a little bit of starting capital. I used to think this pneumatic strip mall aesthetic was normal. And having no real viable public transportation system (I’ve waited, many times, over four hours for a bus that’s scheduled for pickups every 30 minutes) just makes matters worse. Philadelphia has a spread out suburban quality to it as well. But their city is beautiful, they have trains going everywhere and even the sprawling outer suburbs feel a bit less slapped together. a bit more like an actual community. And downtown Philly is easily the most walkable U.S. city I’ve ever set foot in.

  119. Kristine

    I understand his point, and I left MI after undergrad to seek work in a field that MI didn’t have – international development. My husband and I have often thought about returning to give back, build new sectors, attract talent, etc. Still something we are considering. There are things that you can do!

    Work with the amazing universities located there, work with the students, provide internships. Get students excited about working in MI, building back the state, etc. Michigan is no doubt a beautiful place, the summer time is probably more amazing than most places around the country. I truly believe that the Governor, Local Electeds in cities need to be on board with a ‘bring back MI campaign.’ They need to believe it, preach it in high schools, the university level, and work with all sectors of MI’s society to make it great again. Have to diversify from automotoive, I know they are trying, but everyone has to be on board.

    Hopefully, one day I can get back there and help to make a difference!

  120. Myron Mast

    Basile makes many good points. Haven’t taken time to read the many blogs, so I may be overlapping. Quality of life is a nebulous thing. What is it anyway? Here’s how NOT to have quality of life. Allow lots of gambling casinos and really push the Lottery. That way people will for sure be anti-tax; would you rather pay taxes or gamble? So, this all keeps taxes too low in MI and prevents public improvements, good education, etc.

    Also, government structures are absurd. We decided decades ago to allow townships to have a status like cities–power to zone, provide urban services, etc. So, why would anyone looking for a cheap place to put a house want to live in a city. Townships love sprawl and promote it. We have quite autonomous road funding and building in MI, too. No restraint on sprawl at all. Finally, to tie all together we have lots of Republicans running things right now. Snyder says he wants to rescue cities; it will be interesting. I believe him on that just like I believe he wants to improve education and other services in MI. He is typically intent on cutting taxes on business, regressively taxing everything else. Tax levels don’t keep businesses in MI; quality of life might, though. Steelcase had record profits and moved 400+ jobs out of MI all in the same year. Had nothing to do with tax levels. Mi is in trouble.

  121. Ian

    Wow, the writer really hates Detroit. While I agree with most of what he is saying, I think the sprawl issue is most everywhere in the US.
    I moved to New York from Detroit many years ago to live in a real city. I don’t think the US has many “real” cities when compared to Europe, Asia, etc. I agree with Alki. Most all the people I know here in the city feel Suburban Jersey and Long Island are pretty dismal as well. I’m in the creative industry and I always found it strange that Detroit’s advertising agencies were located in places like Warren and Troy. I lived downtown Detroit in a beautiful Mies van der Rohe building that was close to a big, historic market. If Mr. Basile hates suburban sprawl, why would he locate his business in Troy? I believe that people like Mr. Basile need to take the first step in locating in and supporting a strong urban core like Detroit. Many here remember when NYC was a mess too.
    I like Detroit and I’m hoping it will come back! Metro Detroit needs more people with vision and less of those with negative comments who have offices in Troy.

  122. Zoe

    I think this article nailed it. Low taxes and low home costs don’t attract people. How much happiness does sitting in a house bring?

    A native Michigander, I graduated from college in 2000 and moved in August 2001. I had been living in Ann Arbor and, at the time, found a gorgeous, vintage rehab studio in Chicago, utilities included, for $500 month, a few blocks from the Metra and El trains and half a dozen buses. I had been paying $500/month to share a decent three-bedroom in Ann Arbor, but had to pay for a car and gas on top of that. It was simple math: My salary at a nonprofit in Chicago paid $7,000 more per year than my “good” job in MI, my rent would stay the same but I could live alone, and I could ditch the car and all associated costs. It was a no brainer. I biked or walked to my office for years.

    I moved to San Francisco three years ago (but left my heart in Chicago) and, though it is much more expensive than Chicago, I still haven’t needed to purchase a car. I have gained just a few pounds since graduating from college 11 years ago and I don’t really work out, but I do walk everywhere.

    My husband works at Google. An earlier poster mentioned that Google and other tech firms have chosen suburbs. This is not entirely true. I am curious as to whether this person has been to Mountain View or Palo Alto. They have gorgeous downtown areas that are walkable with great food, with train stations on or near their main streets.

    In addition, Google, Salesforce, Facebook, Genentech and other companies run shuttles of two kinds during the morning and evening rush hours: 1) to and from the Cal-Train stations and their offices and 2) to and from the city of San Francisco. Google also has an office in San Francisco proper, in SOMA, where the Chrome team is based. I can only speak to Google’s policies, but my husband also works from home one day each week (more on occasion as needed) since his team is in the Mountain View office and we live in the city.

    Why do these companies do this? Because people simply wouldn’t work at these places if they had to drive. It’s that simple. These companies care about attracting talented people, and talented people who care about having a high quality of life don’t want to spend it in a car on a freeway. Neither my husband nor I have had to own a car in more than ten years. Do you know how much money that has saved us? It has improved our quality of life financially (many thousands of dollars saved each year), physically (we walk and stay healthy), mentally (reducing the stress and road rage from sitting in traffic), and maritally (more time together from shorter commutes).

    A company may have an office that is not in San Francisco proper, sure. But they make an effort to raise the quality of life for their employees, and a lot of those “suburbs” are towns and cities in their own right with dense, walkable areas that look nothing like most of the suburbs of MI.

  123. Not to be rude, but commenters–particularly those with insulting the author should read his letter and remarks in the thread before speaking.

    Ian said:

    “If Mr. Basile hates suburban sprawl, why would he locate his business in Troy? I believe that people like Mr. Basile need to take the first step in locating in and supporting a strong urban core like Detroit. Many here remember when NYC was a mess too.”

    Andrew Basile (Letter Writer) said,

    “First, I have moved from California TO Michigan. The point was made that I’ve left Michigan. It’s just the opposite. I left CA to soilder it out in Michigan.

    Second, our office is in Troy but the firm had renewed a seven year lease the month after I joined. Not to pick on Troy, but it is not my choice of places to work.

    Interestingly, I proposed relocating the firm to a central city and received sharp push back from our employees. I did manage to help relocate one of our offices from a suburban setting to downtown Ann Arbor, which the employees there still complain about.”

  124. Sorry, not to pick on Ian but too many things posted here look like they were written by people who did not read the original letter carefully.

  125. Ian

    Sorry John, I read the letter again but I did not see your quote. Maybe I’m not able to see the entire article. I do think that many of us are a little tired of the Detroit bashing. Like I said, I agree with most everything he is saying but the sprawl stuff is most everywhere. Those pics he posted look like suburban New Jersey. I had to live in suburban CT for a year and most of those people had the same, stupid suburban mentality as in Detroit: Mc Mansions, fancy cars and strip malls. I even met people who had never been to Manhattan. (1 hour away). I’m not insulting the writer but Peter Karmanos and Dan Gilbert were able to move employees to the city. I think BC/BS did as well. Detroit will not improve unless more people from the suburbs invest in the city. Ann Arbor is a very nice place but it is not a city. I think good things are happening in Detroit including the “M1 line”, they just need to be more positive. I still agree Alki.
    FYI: I just went to Dallas on business last month, really ugly suburbs and not much of a city. My colleague from Europe said: “This really is just one big ugly suburb” (Sorry Dallas!)

  126. The quote is in the comments. Andrew Basile, the letter writer clarified things in later comments.

    It’s true that in the letter he say’s “I have a firm”, which implied he had total control, which he didn’t have.

  127. alki

    First, thank you Mr. Basile for your response. I wanted to take this time to reply to your comments….not sure you will see it but here goes:

    >>>Your points are well taken, but the intended audience of my email was my fellow Oakland County Republicans. The old guard. I originally wrote this email to a group of 2-3 people, one of whom sent it on to a blogger<<<>>So, you mention that complaints are well-known and, by implication, that raising them is trite.<<<<<

    What I was saying is that Detroit pretty much knows what its flaws are……there are plenty of people and media organizations who are very ready to tell them should they forget. Besides, you don't get an overweight kid to lose weight by reminding him/her repeatedly that they are fat. Detroit needs creative solutions; not more criticism. I would rather see you show your positive video to the Republicans of Oakland County and then show them the positive things that are happening in Detroit of which there are many, and then ask them how they can help. I also would make it a theme of your hiring campaign. Let eligible candidates know that all is not dead in Detroit. You might be surprised at the calibre of employee you attract.

    Thanks again for your response.

  128. alki

    First, thank you Mr. Basile for your response. I wanted to take this time to reply to your comments….not sure you will see it but here goes:

    Your points are well taken, but the intended audience of my email was my fellow Oakland County Republicans. The old guard. I originally wrote this email to a group of 2-3 people, one of whom sent it on to a blogger

    I understand your email got hijacked but the fact that your comments were originally intended for a conservative group makes them even more egregiou to me. Let me tell you why. First of all, you provided no balance at all to your comments. So while there is no question that Detroit is sprawling, you never bothered to mention there are people in Detroit who are working to reverse that sprawl…….to develop a more compact, liveable city. I’ve worked to turn a neighborhood. I know the hurdles they are facing. It isn’t an easy job. These people in Detroit at least deserve some credit for what they are doing against overwhelming odds that don’t favor them.

    Secondly, you are talking to people who probably control some of the purse strings that exist in Michigan. I worry they won’t ‘hear’ the part about how sprawl is indesirable and can be deadly for a business. Instead, I suspect your message will reinforce their own perspective that Detroit is ugly and dangerous, and they need to cut off any lifelines and let it die. After all, that has been the conservative meme for decades…..cities are bad places and must be walled off if not abandoned.

    So, you mention that complaints are well-known and, by implication, that raising them is trite.

    What I was saying is that Detroit pretty much knows what its flaws are……there are plenty of people and media organizations who are very ready to tell them should they forget. Besides, you don’t get an overweight kid to lose weight by reminding him/her repeatedly that they are fat. Detroit needs creative solutions; not more criticism. I would rather see you show your positive video to the Republicans of Oakland County and then show them the positive things that are happening in Detroit of which there are many, and then ask them how they can help. I also would make it a theme of your hiring campaign. Let eligible candidates know that all is not dead in Detroit. You might be surprised at the calibre of employee you attract.

    Thanks again for your response.

  129. Pingback: On sprawl | Crazy Patch

  130. circusvue

    I don’t think it is a perception or a reality problem but a MONEY problem. Like the rest of the USA, the money has been sucked out of our country and into the hands of a few at the expense of the many.

  131. mimayor

    Suburban smarm is everywhere–not just SE Michigan. Most accept it as the norm and many prefer it. My wife and I live and work in Birmingham. In the fall of 2010, Travel&Leisure Magazine listed Birmingham as one of America’s best suburbs worth a visit and The Wall Street Journal called it one of the top five most successful walkable suburbs along with another of our favorites, Evanston, IL. Royal Oak was also mentioned in the WSJ article. We walk to grocery stores, restaurants, parks, farmers market, library, banks, church, etc, etc. We own one automobile and drive less than 7000 miles per year mostly for extended travel exploring other cool places in Michigan and beyond. We usually return home thinking that was nice but we live in a great place. The only real drawback is the winter climate. Birmingham’s 2010 census population increased.

    • schmange

      That’s great, MiMayor. Doesn’t it bother you though that your suburb is basically an appendage to a horribly damaged city? Will your wonderful suburb remain so if the central city continues to decline so precipitously. I’m not so sure.

  132. Kristin

    schmange (re: crumbling of Birmingham’s “central city”),

    I’m afraid Detroit proper has not been much of a central city in terms of revenue or job creation for quite some time now. Detroit has been an unsolved problem, a plagued city in decline, for decades. Despite this, Oakland County was the 4th wealthiest county in the nation until just before the recession.

    In 2010: “Census Bureau data shows the recession has reduced the median household income to $61,907 last year compared with $103,035 in 2000.”

    A dramatic decline. Even Michigan as a whole was consistently ranked highly as a state based on median household income until the same point. It is now somewhat below middle of the pack.

    I just don’t think our telephone poles were the cause.

  133. Kristin

    As a side note, I can’t help but find it funny to hear of all the great opportunities for “young professionals” in Chicago.

    Many of my fellow University of Michigan grads (and of course graduates of MSU, other Michigan schools and some who did grad/professional school in Chicago) seemed determined to start a new “Michigan” settlement in Chicago. Unfortunately, the majority of them are LUCKY to be under employed, the rest lived out their leases and couldn’t find employment. A lucky few have underpaid jobs in their field to support over priced apartments and cost of living. These are 20 somethings with good to great educations, all with internships, most with advanced and professional degrees.

    As for my peers/friends who sought the good life in California? Every. single. one. of them moved back to Michigan, most within a year. For all the sunshine and supposedly superior livability, they couldn’t handle the incredibly high cost.

    I guess it just sucks everywhere?

  134. mimayor

    Kristin is correct, Detroit has been a “horribly damaged city” for my lifetime with little negative harm on Oakland County and surrounds. Some surrounding communities like the city of Birmingham, Royal Oak, Ferndale, Plymouth, Northville, etc may have even benefited in some ways from Detroit’s mis-fortune. Ok, I don’t necessarily believe that but it is worth pondering. Sadly, Detroit may not recover within my lifetime. But I do see positive signs and root for the success of risk taking entrepreneurs large and small. A healthy Woodward Avenue spine connecting everything from the Riverfront to Pontiac would be an ambitious but worthwhile start.

  135. schmange

    Kristin, MiMayor, see those red lines up there? Those are people leaving Oakland County. If that doesn’t convince you of Detroit’s importance to your community, I don’t think anything I say will.

    Birmingham, Michigan, I’m sure, has some very nice amenities, but nothing that is unique when viewed from a national scale. You can’t tell me that Birmingham, Michigan is attracting people from California because of its high quality of life. Birmingham, Michigan may be nice compared to Detroit, or even some other Detroit suburbs. Every city in the country has some nice suburbs. Your suburb, and your region, is at a huge competitive disadvantage because your central city is a mess. If you’re going to attract out-of-towners to your suburb, you need to sell them on Detroit, and let’s face it, right now, that’s a tough sell.

  136. Kristin

    From a PR point of view, you’re correct. Being able to sell Detroit as a whole package is important to attract newcomers.

    But, you’re missing the point. The massive job hits from the most recent decline of the auto industry came out of and were primarily felt in the suburbs. There have not been tons of jobs in the city of Detroit for a long time. The suburbanites have been for the most part supporting what goes on in the city of Detroit for a long time.

    We’re losing people. That sucks. The entire country is in slow population growth mode right now, save for the influx of (mainly “illegal”) immigrants. The point is that, as much as I am a HUGE proponent for “revitalizing” (love all the buzz words…) the city of Detroit itself and of course the metro area as a whole, the outlying counties, particularly Oakland County, have done pretty well for themselves in recent decades without needing to pull money or resources from our “central city,” as you call it. Rather, it has been quite the opposite.

    I’m actually from farther north than Birmingham. Oakland Township, to be specific. An area sought out for its LACK of urban feel.

  137. Kristin

    ps. Lest my last post reads as a declaration of “we’re fine the way we are and nothing needs to change,” I should say that I understand things need to move forward. It’s a great time to get creative and try new solutions and new business models.

    I just think it’s important to understand the situation for what it is, and not operate under the false assumption that the metro area has relied on Detroit.

  138. schmange

    Sought out by people from the Detroit area exclusively — by definition a shrinking pool. There is no future in communities like that.

  139. Kristin

    CLEVELAND ROCKS!

  140. schmange

    I’m sorry, Kristin, I really don’t mean to be argumentative. I think metro Detroit’s problem is that it hasn’t relied on its central city. It has let it go to pot with the idea that if the suburbs are strong, it doesn’t matter what condition the city is in. I think that was a really bad idea and it will be very costly for the suburbs and the city.

  141. Matt

    As a resident of Metro Detroit, those pictures look like home =
    This article gave me goosebumps.

  142. mimayor

    Interesting that the city of Detroit with its massive footprint of 140 square miles (reportedly bigger than Manhattan, Boston and SF combined) is only about 15% of the region’s 5 million + population. The core tri-county area (Macomb, Oakland, Wayne) is 4 million people of which Detroit is only about 18%. In 1960, the city of Detroit accounted for 44% of the region’s population.

  143. MiMayor, how’s that working for you guys? Oh, right …

  144. Angie,

    I do think one has to admit that some of these suburbs like Royal Oak are quite old with many townlike designs. Also, I believe that some substantial abount of the sprawl relates to a certain level of Industrial sprawl–factories moving to places with more available land. (Remember that no major Semi conductor plants exist in San Francisco itself either.)

    I’m not saying all of this is a good thing at all, things need to be much more centered. However, expecting many people to give up this long history (multi-generational in many cases)and all move into Detroit is unrealistic.

    My guess is that something like The Woodward Corridor proposal, which acknowledges the existence and advantages outside central Detroit makes sense.

  145. Likewise in the Pittsburgh region, there was substantial industrial sprawl almost from the start. Steel Mills and factories located all along the rivers wherever there was a decent flood plain.

  146. I’m not saying all suburbs are unnecessary and evil. What I’m saying is without a vibrant urban core it doesn’t matter how nice your suburbs are. Detroit will always have suburbs. But what it has right now is suburbs to the exclusion of all else and it’s a recipe for disaster, the disaster that is unfolding right now.

  147. Bergschrund

    I don’t know what set of events will shake Detroiters from the siren song of the suburbs. But in a perfect world, anyone claiming that Detroit (read: Southeastern Michigan) “simply has a perception problem” would be placed in a criminally-negligent retirement home.

    Unfortunately, this opinion is parroted from the same cohort of boosters who doggedly believe the sister memes that “American car manufacturers simply have a perception problem” and that “buying American cars will retain Michigan jobs.” Not only are these particular delusions common, (even though one would think, self-evidently false by anyone affiliated with the Auto Industry) they’re required dogmas of our corporate and popular culture and thus have become mass delusions (yet another manifestation of a popular consensus that isn’t consistent with reality).

    Anyway, so the tortured logic follows: since our problems are simply perceptual, then the logic-defying gifts of advertising and PR alone will save us! Hence the Imported from Detroit ad campaign, and shameless product-placement by GM in Transformers, the vacuous special-effects fiesta, (where nearly every protagonist happens to be a GM car) and countless other examples.

    Like an addict stuck in the bargaining stage, we’ve attempted to reason a solution which doesn’t involve any significant change in our collective behavior. It’s been said that most addicts need to hit “rock bottom” before the desire to change can overcome ingrained behavior. I fear that Detroit is no different. What’s really frightening is that given our mounting social and economic problems, I can’t imagine when that agreement might occur – or even when a counter-narrative grows into a respectable minority. Andrew Basile’s editorial is a step in the right direction.

  148. Very well said.

    This what I meant when I much of today’s Rustbelt thinking with what happened in the old South. The ultimate emergence, to the extent it has happened in the New South is the product of far more than good advertising. There was real change and self examination. At the bare minimum, people in the business community who needed investment capital, technology and new workers realised that the old behavior was bad for business.

  149. Ooops,

    This what I meant when I compared much of today’s Rustbelt thinking with what happened in the old South. The ultimate emergence, to the extent it has happened in the New South is the product of far more than good advertising. There was real change and self examination. At the bare minimum, people in the business community who needed investment capital, technology and new workers realised that the old behavior was bad for business.

  150. Suburban sprawl critic James Howard Kunstler, author of The Geography of Nowhere, dedicated an entire episode of The KunstlerCast podcast to discussing this letter:

    KunstlerCast #150: Suburban Sprawl in the Rust Belt

  151. Heard a run down of your article on the Kunstler Cast Podcast.

    I’m 29 and have lived in Metro Detroit my whole life. I’ve about had it with the place and am saving money to flee.

    I produced a short video in early 2005, a tour of my Home Town, St Clair Shores, that illustrates your points nicely. It can be viewed here:

    http://www.humandog.tv/2005/01/hd-vidblog-053-lac-st-clair/

    The Older Generations still in control have no idea how incensed and disgusted the young people are at them for destroying Detroit and telling us to be thankful.

  152. mimayor

    Bergschrund, I don’t know anyone who is claiming Detroit has only a perception problem. The problems are real and the result of decades of poor leadership, govt corruption, crime, indifference, neglect and much more. Mayor Dave Bing has a full plate but is a positive influence with down-to-business approach and plenty of willing support in govt and private sector.

    The USA Today had a below-the-fold cover story on Friday, April 1st saying that despite the overall mass exodus from the city of Detroit, the new census showed that thousands of college educated 25 to 35 year olds moved into targeted midtown areas. Further north, there is a master plan developing to restore the University District neighborhood near the University of Detroit Mercy. Livernois Road is becoming somewhat of a gallery row in that area. Despite the odds and long road ahead, there are many signs of encouragement if one cares to look.

  153. mimayor

    Today’s Crains Detroit Business is reporting that Whole Foods has expressed interest in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood. Mayor Dave Bing said at a luncheon last week that it is not a question of “if” but “when” regarding a deal for Whole Foods. WF is already building its brand in the city of Detroit with a sponsorship of pole banners in Eastern Market. A 2009 study by Social Compact noted in the CDB story says that Midtown has the city’s highest average household income of new homebuyers at $113,788.

    http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20110403/FREE/304039993

  154. The problem with equating population decline with brain drain:

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-04-01-1Ayoungrestless01_ST_N.htm

    “Even in Detroit, where the population shrank by 25% since 2000, downtown added 2,000 young and educated residents during that time, up 59% , according to analysis of Census data by Impresa Inc., an economic consulting firm.”

  155. “If anyone cares to look.”

    Did you care to look at and read the letter–or listen to Kunstler’s podcast? Neither one of them take shots at the city of Detroit itself. The letter was written to city leaders in Troy, well north of the city.

    Nothing in the letter brings up the common stereotypes of crime, racial tension and urban decay you seem to be implying. The subject is very much about the nasty aspects of the suburbs themselves. The writer also said he suggested moving the firm into a center city, although which one is not named.

  156. MC

    It’s always amazing to me to see the quality of housing stock that is being let deteriorate in Detroit. I am used to living places where pre-war walkable neighborhoods with historic homes are some of the most expensive parts of the city, or at least include a range of prices and desirability. When I read the policy idea of “downsizing” Detroit and taering down homes, I really think its short-sighted. Long term, it seems that these neighborhoods need to be revitalized and rehabilitated, with better shcools and services. If anything should be torn down, tear down some of suburbia to create accessible open spaces. But without addressing schools and crime, it seems it will be hard to reverse Detroit’s population losses. And without fiscal sustainability, it will be hard to address schools and crime.

    “The people who put together that website must live in a different cultural universe from the high income/high education people streaming out of Michigan for New York, Chicago, and California.”

    But the funny thing is, working in urban planning in Colorado, I constantly hear people say they want to live in and create “suburban” places. The old folks say it. The professionals say it (who wants to live in gritty old town with its small houses?) The liberal environmentalists say it (cities are bad!). The conservatives say it (cities are against the American Dream!). The only people who don’t say it are perhaps those who live in Denver. Until those who favor walkable urbanism influence policy and also live in urban areas in the Detroit region, it seems it will be hard to have the kind of neighborhoods you find in Denver, Seattle, etc.

  157. MWBrown

    I think one problem facing folks championing the walkable city is that its somehow a “liberal” vs. “good ‘ol American conservative” solution and that the auto-dependent suburb is the “market” choice.

    In fact, the auto-dependent suburb is NOT the physical manifestation of free people making free choices in a free market. The auto-dependent suburb is the result of 50 years of clearly demarcated federal, state and local policy choices.

    Consider reading “Zoned Out” by Jonathon Levine (University of Michigan no less!)

    http://www.amazon.com/Zoned-Out-Regulation-Transportation-Metropolitan/dp/1933115157

    Jonathon adeptly analyzes the myriad policy choices made that have wrought so much physical destruction on our landscape.

    Another issue to consider is the role Wall Street has played in financing the physical landscape and the requirements it puts on that capital. For more in-depth analysis of big capital’s role in shaping our physical landscape check out Christopher Leinberger’s “The Option of Urbanism.” In it he talks about the “19 Standard Products of Real-Estate” where REIT analysts have basically assumed the role of arbiter of what gets built. The fact that the financiers are dealing with a national/international building framework ensures the homogenization of the built environment. One financing scheme in one place must be applicable to another in order to analyze and apply.

    http://www.amazon.com/Option-Urbanism-Investing-American-Dream/dp/1597261378/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1302035632&sr=1-1

    Its a big problem. The best possible thing that could happen to our cities is $10.00 a gallon gasoline.

  158. MC

    “In fact, the auto-dependent suburb is NOT the physical manifestation of free people making free choices in a free market. The auto-dependent suburb is the result of 50 years of clearly demarcated federal, state and local policy choices.”

    While I appreciate this fact, and thought pointing it out would help, I’ve found it doesn’t seem to sway people at all. Conservatives always seem to retort with something like “well, land development is one area where the free market shouldn’t dominate, because developers are greedy and want to pack people in.” And of course liberals don’t favor the market solution to begin with (I know I am painting with a broad brush) so see no problem in supporting suburban regulations and subsidies. Outside of university Economics departments and a few working-class or intellectual libertarians, I’ve met few Americans who could care about the free market.

    People also interchange words. To many Americans, “suburb” means countryside and “city” means highways, shopping malls, and subdivisions (i.e. suburbia). So when they say they hate cities, they really mean they hate suburbs!

    The people I meet who seem to appreciate cities are those who live and/or work in them. Once people understand that cities can be nice places to live, the conversation changes.

  159. Jonathan Porcelli

    Dear Sir,

    One of the best essays I have ever read on the topic.
    I was born in Tucson Arizona and now live in Brooklyn, NY.

    The conveniences of walking to my necessities has long ago outweighed
    any joy a car and a 1/4 acre could bring. The connections to my neighbors
    may not be based on long conversations but there is a general awareness of
    what is going on around us.

    After a recent trip to Tucson I said to my wife that I can’t believe people
    have completely adapted to that style of living. You never see people outside.
    they never walk, People have given in to only interfacing through commerce.

    Unfortunately urban living may go extinct.

    You could cut and paste the name of many other cities in the place of Troy in this essay.

  160. Pingback: Census Results! - Minneapolis - St. Paul - Minnesota (MN) -Twin Cities - Page 24 - City-Data Forum

  161. Tony May

    Troy, Michigan is the definition of conventional suburbia that most on this board deplore. It consists mostly of nicely groomed 1970’s and 80’s subdivisions on winding streets within a larger grid. There are vast parks with ball fields and golf courses. A major east/west six-lane boulevard runs for miles where newer office buildings surrounded by vast parking lots dominate the strip malls. The school system is excellent and The Somerset Collection is one of the more upscale shopping malls in the US. Troy IS sprawl as dictated by its codes–there is no center and it is dominated by the automobile. Many prefer this lifestyle.

    But I am pleasantly astonished by the abundance of fine walkable communities with authentic urbanist characteristics in SE Michigan. These qualities include mixed use downtowns with multiple housing options, parks, civic squares, public art, fountains, lively street life with cafes, shops, restaurants, hotels, cinemas, clubs, etc. Incentives have lured the movie industry here and film shoots are common sights. Many of these places have already been mentioned above: Ann Arbor, Birmingham, Brighton, Farmington, Ferndale, Grosse Pointe, Milford, Northville, Plymouth, Rochester and Royal Oak. Beyond the Detroit area are East Lansing, Grand Rapids, Holland and Traverse City. Others can surely add to the list.

    Our city of Birmingham, Michigan neighbors Troy. The master plan was updated with Andres Duany and his DPZ firm in 1996. I recall how interesting it was to have him here for the charrette process. Many of the initiatives have been appropriately incorporated with a genuine focus on always improving the pedestrian experience whenever possible. We know when spring has arrived because our Bistro Ordinance mandates outdoor dining and the umbrella tables are popping up on the sidewalks and seasonal platforms. The freshly renovated and expanded Shain Park town square will soon be humming with outdoor concerts, art exhibitions and more. Not every plat is picture-perfect but there is a true sense of place here as reinforced in national media by Travel&Leisure Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and CNN/Money in recent months.

  162. Mkow1234

    The guy said he can’t find specialized lawyers — I hardly think that equates to “Michigan does not have the talent to compete with other places”.
    ‘ Nuff said.

  163. Dave Rockwood

    Census data reveals that the most sprawling areas are losing humans, and cities that promote walkability and compact urban growth, like beautiful Marquette, are gaining humans. Good planning counts! The suburbs are becoming the ghettos of the modern era. Planners have been warning of this for years, but elected officials didn’t want to interfere with “the market.” In most midwestern communitites the market is the homebuilders assoc. and the realtors by the way, and they are good campaign contributors. It all goes back to politics.

  164. Pingback: My Dear Michigan « The VandeGraph

  165. Pingback: About that census and also, “Is Soul-Crushing Sprawl Killing Business?” « Buffalo Rising News « Buffalo 123

  166. Pingback: A Ride Through Town: Part 2 of 3 « Nathaniel M Hood

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  169. Pingback: The irony of Detroit « Beyond the Cul de Sac

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