Monday, April 12, 2010

East Germany Is The New Michigan

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, East German towns - no longer propped up by centrally-planned production queues - have gradually shrunk from population loss and lack of economic opportunities.

The proposed solution? Physically shrink the towns themselves into a series of "city islands".

The planners have "kind of disassembled the city into pixels and put it back together again using a cut-and-paste method," as Brückner explains. According to the concept, Dessau-Rosslau would abandon the model of a more compact central city, leaving only islands of houses. "Buildings will be cut out and in the empty spaces we will insert countryside," Brückner explains.

Curiously, a similar trend has developed in Michigan, where once prosperous industrial cities like Detroit and Flint have dwindled from industry outsourcing. In Detroit, Mayor Bing has called for the demolition of 1/4 of the city - a seemingly radical proposal, until one considers the city's lumbering geography.

Detroit is a big city, roughly 139 square miles (think of it as an equivalent to six Manhattans) and it can no longer support itself. One of the biggest problems is the amount of police, firemen, and ambulance drivers it takes to cover the large city.

Mr Kildee said he will concentrate on 50 cities, identified in a recent study by the Brookings Institution, an influential Washington think-tank, as potentially needing to shrink substantially to cope with their declining fortunes.

Most are former industrial cities in the "rust belt" of America's Mid-West and North East. They include Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Memphis.

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