Imagine if you had a city of nearly a million people, and no one came?
Retailers Head for Exits in Detroit
DETROIT -- They call this the Motor City, but you have to leave town to buy a Chrysler or a Jeep.
Borders Inc. was founded 40 miles away, but the only one of the chain's bookstores here closed this month. And Starbucks Corp., famous for saturating U.S. cities with its storefronts, has only four left in this city of 900,000 after closures last summer. ... No national grocery chain operates a store here. A lack of outlets that sell fresh produce and meat has led the United Food and Commercial Workers union and a community group to think about building a grocery store of its own.
One of the few remaining bookstores is the massive used-book outlet John K. King has operated out of an abandoned glove factory since 1983. But Mr. King is considering moving his operations to the suburbs. ... The city's 22.8% unemployment rate is among the highest in the U.S.; 30% of residents are on food stamps.
"As the city loses so much, the tax base shrinks and the city has to cut back services," said Margaret Dewar, a professor of urban planning at the University of Michigan. That causes such hassles for retailers as longer police-response times, as well as less-frequent snow plowing and trash pickup. ... Hundreds of buildings were left vacant by the nearly one million residents who have left. Thousands of businesses have closed since the city's population peaked six decades ago.
Navigating zoning rules and other red tape to develop land for big-box stores that might cater to a low-income clientele is daunting.
The lack of grocery stores is especially problematic. The last two mainstream chain groceries closed in 2007, when The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. sold most of the southeast Michigan stores in its Farmer Jack chain to Kroger Corp., which declined to purchase the chain's two Detroit locations, causing them to close.
A 2007 study found that more than half of Detroit residents had to travel twice as far to reach a grocery store than a fast-food outlet or convenience store. (More: Wall Street Journal)
I don't think we've seen anything like this (at least not since the Great Depression days, and even then I bet you could buy groceries). This is like the population of the State of Delaware in just 143 sq. miles, and they don't have a supermarket?
What do you do with an empty city? There have been talks of simply razing large swaths of Detroit and making a series of little suburbs and micro-cities. I don't know what the point of no return is on a city's population and infrastructure, but I suspect Detroit has long passed it. It likely won't survive as we know it. So what do you do with it? I suspect breaking it up actually is the answer, but that's got to be complicated in its own right, particularly the razing and reclaiming.
This reminds me of the Talking Head's song "Nothing but Flowers"...
From the age of the dinosaurs Cars have run on gasoline Where, where have they gone? Now, it's nothing but flowers
There was a factory Now there are mountains and rivers - There was a shopping mall Now it's all covered with flowers
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