June 23rd, 2010 — By — In News & Events

Shrinking Detroit to save it: using eminent domain to downsize the city

Yesterday, blogger Karen Dybis posted her interview with eminent domain attorney Alan Ackerman on The Detroit Blog (a Time/CNN partner blog). [Disclosure: Alan Ackerman is the Michigan Member of Owners’ Counsel of America.]

Ms. Dybis’s interview with Mr. Ackerman focuses upon a proposal introduced by Detroit Mayor Bing earlier this year to revitalize Detroit through carefully planned and executed downsizing. Although critics have complained that Mayor Bing has yet to propose a long-term official strategy for his proposed vision of what has been called “rightsizing” Detroit, the Mayor and his staff had indicated that their goals are to stabilize neighborhoods and the city as a whole through relocating residents (individuals, families and business) residing in less densely populated neighborhoods to the more densely populated areas of the city and through the centralization and reallocation of resources (fire, police, utilities, schools), not by shrinking Detroit’s borders. City officials have indicated that it will take 18-24 months to develop a framework to “rightsize” Detroit.

Both Dybis and Ackerman support Mayor Bing’s proposed resizing of Detroit. Despite Mr. Ackerman’s longtime position as an advocate for private property owners and opposing government takings, he believes that Mayor Bing has strong arguments in favor of the downsizing proposal – elimination of of true blight, public health and safety, and decreased expenses relating to city services among others.

In an interesting New York Times article this week, Razing the City to Save the City, journalist Susan Saulny discusses various strategies that a number of Detroit-based non-profit, community and trade groups are proposing as frameworks for re-planning Detroit. “It’s really about reorganizing our land to make a more livable city,” said Tom Goddeeris, an architect who lives in the vibrant northwest part of the city and is a longtime advocate of rethinking Detroit. “I don’t know that it’s ever been done before on our scale, but we’ve got to get started.”

With planned public meetings on the downsizing proposal scheduled for this summer, there is a solid opportunity for the public, including the many non-profit, community and trade organizations who have already shown a specific interest in formulating a plan for reorganizing Detroit to work together with the city to develop a truly community-focused positive framework for revitalizing Detroit. As Mr. Ackerman indicated in his interview with Ms. Dybis: “If there’s not unity in doing this, it will be a disaster. It’s one of those tender issues where there’s tremendous emotion…How (the mayor and residents) start the relationship will make the process work or go on forever. If it starts out hostile, it will stay that way. People need to be involved.”

Read more of Karen Dybis’s Q&A with Alan Ackerman here.

Additionally, Mr. Ackerman has discussed Mayor Bing’s proposal to downsize Detroit in his National Eminent Domain Blog here, here, here and here. Frank Beckman, host of WJR news radio, also spoke with Mr. Ackerman about Mayor Bing’s plan.

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