From crisis to projects; a regional agenda for addressing foreclosures in shrinking first suburbs: Lessons from Warren, Michigan

Abstract

Global urban development is currently characterized by varied combination of metropolitan growth and urban core shrinkage. Although much of the shrinkage is concentrated in central cities, first suburbs are now facing the same problem. In this article, Warren, the oldest first suburb of Detroit, is examined as a case study of a shrinking city facing a crisis of economic downturn, automotive restructuring, high unemployment and real-estate foreclosures. Within this context of foreclosure crisis, the research questions are as follows: How existing agencies and institutions (such as local governments, community organizations, business groups and schools) might work at the neighborhood, city or regional level to address foreclosures? How it might help or reduce foreclosures? How can we reuse and revitalize foreclosed properties and abandoned lands? And what specific lessons can be learned that might be applicable in other cities? These questions are specifically explored through documentation and analysis of existing resources and current efforts in Warren. The empirical methodology reveals Warren's attempt to develop planning strategies, culturally based initiatives, community design projects and creative partnerships in the region in order to address challenges of shrinkage and foreclosures at multiple scales. The Warren case study illustrates opportunities for flexible policies combining rightsizing, shared maintenance and incremental development in struggling first suburban communities, which are less studied and often ignored.

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Acknowledgements

The author acknowledges that ‘From Crisis to Projects’ is the title of the 2009 RSVP #13 event organized by the City of Warren in collaboration with the Macomb County, Lawrence Tech, and Volume magazine), from where first ideas of this article were incepted. The author thanks T. Moceri (Macomb County); G. Cavallier; B. McInerney; N. Bourgeois; and M. Potere (all from City of Warren). It is acknowledged that several undergraduate students in the Lawrence Tech College of Architecture and Design and M. Cay Lancaster, a Graduate Research Assistant, also helped the author with initial data collection and photographs.

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Adhya, A. From crisis to projects; a regional agenda for addressing foreclosures in shrinking first suburbs: Lessons from Warren, Michigan. Urban Des Int 18, 43–60 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1057/udi.2012.31

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Keywords

  • shrinking city
  • first suburbs
  • foreclosures
  • Warren, MI
  • Detroit metro area