Stop me if you have heard this before, big plans are afoot for the Packard Plant. Every urban planner, developer and schemer have weighed in on what the city should do with all this open space. The common thread in all of these proposals is some massive plan to revitalize the city. It plays on the hope, the Detroit style hope, that good times are just around the corner. It is as if we are stuck in that mid- 20th century fiction that the bad times are temporary and the new model year will see cars flying off the line and folks will be back at work. I think we know better now. As the old Springsteen song says, “these jobs are goin’, son and they ain’t commin’ back”. We realize that is our reality. Yet the idea of the next big thing pulling us out of this mess still has it hold on our psyche.
The trouble with seeking a top down cure for the city is; the smart money that such plans rely on want a clean slate. All of the clutter clouds the vision of all but the most visionary thinkers. So the big money sits on the sideline and waits. Maybe the answer is on the street. Think about the last time the country sought to tame the frontier, they created the homestead program to draw folks to the Great Plains. The urban prairie could use such a plan. The idea being, offer free land to individuals who want to come in and build, not just a house but a business. Detroit is rife with blocks of abandoned store fronts, offices and factories. Perhaps a plan that gifts the property to a business owner on the condition they open a shop for a certain number of years may encourage a few folks heavy on vision and courage, if light on cash. It would sure be a far cry better than watching these blocks continue to rot until nature clears the land.