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The Detroit Future City: How Pervasive Neoliberal Urbanism Exacerbates Racialized Spatial Injustice

March 2015

Daniel Clement, Miguel Kanai


Clement and Kanai critique the intentions and impact of neoliberal urbanism as it pertains to urban revitalization and planning, from a framework of racial justice. The author’s examine the Detroit Future City project and ascertain their approach via various policy and media documents. Their analysis of Detroit’s census data shows that the areas of Detroit that DFC deems “innovation landscapes” are disproportionately comprised of Detroit’s most disadvantaged residents, primarily the Black population. In the name of fiscal responsibility, governmental efficiency, and sustainable urban development these innovation landscapes would displace municipal services, and thus further marginalize a predominantly low-income, black population and continue to hamper upward mobility and add to increasing wait times for public safety services to arrive in the area. Additionally, the authors do agree that done correctly, greening spaces and innovation landscapes can greatly contribute to Detroit’s revitalization, but the existing plan and future intentions to designate these specific neighborhoods as innovation landscapes would, arguably, lead to unintended consequences.

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Policy Implications

Urban revitalization can produce unintended consequences that further disadvantage already disadvantaged populations in said urban environment. As Detroit continues to rebuild and follow the frameworks and guidelines that Detroit Future City puts forth, it is important to assess the implications of greening spaces that could hamper public safety and the well-being of residents.

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