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John Gallagher: Reimagining Detroit

John Gallagher's book "Reimagining Detroit" synthesizes several ideas for urban revitalization in shrinking post-industrial cities.

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John Gallagher's book Reimagining Detroit synthesizes several ideas for urban revitalization in shrinking post-industrial cities.

Experts estimate that perhaps forty square miles of Detroit are vacant—from a quarter to a third of the city —a level of emptiness that creates a landscape unlike any other big city. Author John Gallagher, who has covered urban redevelopment for the Detroit Free Press for two decades, spent a year researching what is going on in Detroit precisely because of its open space and the dire economic times we face. Instead of presenting another account of the city’s decline, Reimagining Detroit: Opportunities for Redefining an American City showcases the innovative community-building work happening in the city and focuses on what else can be done to make Detroit leaner, greener, and more economically self-sufficient.

Gallagher conducted numerous interviews, visited community projects, and took many of the photographs that accompany the text to uncover some of the strategies that are being used, and could be used in the future, to make twenty-first century Detroit a more sustainable and desirable place to live. Some of the topics Gallagher discusses are urban agriculture, restoring vacant lots, reconfiguring Detroit’s overbuilt road network, and reestablishing some of the city’s original natural landscape. He also investigates new models for governing the city and fostering a more entrepreneurial economy to ensure a more stable political and economic future. Along the way, Gallagher introduces readers to innovative projects that are already under way in the city and proposes other models for possible solutions—from as far away as Dresden, Germany, and Seoul, South Korea, and as close to home as Philadelphia and Youngstown—to complement current efforts.


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Photo of DeletedUser


Really cool. I love the use of shipping containers as office space. What does Detroit have in excess that could be similarly re-purposed?

Photo of Meena Kadri

Way to go, Avi!

Photo of Vladimir Melnikov

Avi, thanks for the video! It looks like they've already tried a bunch of ideas and solutions there. It would be helpful to know some statistic of achievements though.

Photo of Vincent Cheng

Thanks Avi...this really introduces us to quite a few of the initiatives , many with a sustainability bent, that are already emerging in Detroit. And yes, it'd be great if anyone had an on-the-ground sense of what's picking up steam, even though stats per se may not exactly be available for many of the newer developments.

Photo of DeletedUser


Wonderful video! He strongly reinforced that up-cycling school of thought. It seemed that everyone of these projects (day lighting, urban farming, the pod offices, wachterhaus) are all examples of reclaiming what already exists within in a space and allowing the public to manifest it in a unique way. I hope that in the concept phase this thread runs through the ideas. It doesn't have to take a lot of money or resources to create something remarkable.