DETROIT — Detroit's mayor unveiled a plan Wednesday that could determine what the city looks like as it fights for vitality, announcing that neighborhoods will receive different kinds of services depending on the conditions of homes, how many people live there and the level of blight.
Mayor Dave Bing released details from his Detroit Works Project, calling them part of a "short-term intervention strategy" to serve residents at a time when the city has limited financial resources and a $155 million budget deficit.
"Our focus is going to be on the people in the neighborhoods," Bing said. "We can effect real change and improve neighborhoods."
Bing's plan isn't really about shrinking Detroit — the boundaries surrounding the 139-square-mile city aren't receding. Instead, he wants to encourage the redistribution of what's left of Detroit's population into areas where people still live, where the houses aren't on the verge of caving in and where the city's scant resources won't be spread dangerously thin.
He stressed that police, fire and emergency medical service will be at the same levels in all neighborhoods.
The U.S. Census has placed Detroit's population at about 713,000 residents — about 200,000 fewer than 10 years ago and down more than one million since 1950. Some areas have fewer occupied homes than vacant houses. Entrenched companies and foundations are trying hard to lure newcomers into downtown and Midtown — two of the city's more stable neighborhoods.
The plan also moved away from requiring people living in some distressed areas to move to other parts of the city to stabilize those neighborhoods — an idea many residents had expressed opposition to. But Bing did say he still encourages people to do so.
"We will not force anybody to move," Bing said. "We want people to move into the areas that are going to grow; where we have the amenities, the density."
Bing's administration has been working with community leaders for months on the effort, in which the city's neighborhoods have been classified as steady, transitional or distressed.
Neighborhoods identified as having a steady market have the highest housing prices in Detroit and homes that are in good physical condition. Neighborhoods termed transitional have a mix of rental and owner-occupied homes and are in various stages of decline. Distressed market neighborhoods have been in long-term physical decline and have high vacancy rates.
Under Bing's plan, more attention would be paid to demolishing vacant houses, enhancing vacant lots, and improving recreation services in distressed neighborhoods. Transitional neighborhoods would get high concentrations of services mostly across the board, while more attention will be paid to code enforcement, illegal dumping and business attraction in the city's best neighborhoods than in others.
Bing said the changes will be implemented in the next 14 days. Three neighborhoods will be evaluated six months from now to gauge the successes of the new strategy, he told community members.
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