Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said Tuesday the city will focus on demolishing thousands of its most dangerous vacant homes and fixing up salvageable ones as he lays the groundwork for a long-term plan to downsize.
Plans to shrink or right-size the sprawling city by clearing out the most desolate sections and moving residents into stronger, more viable neighborhoods will take years to develop, Bing told The Associated Press in an interview.
"It's a long road back," said Bing, who took office last year. "I don't want to raise expectations, false expectations. I want to be very straight with people. This is hard work and it's not going to happen overnight."
It's not known, Bing said, how much downsizing might cost or how much of the 139-square-mile city could be involved. He wants to make sure residents are a part of the long-term planning process and buy into the city's plan.
"We're not going in and just taking people's property and saying you don't have any say," Bing said. "Those people that we can encourage and that they would agree to be moved, those are the ones that we are going to work with first."
To downsize Detroit, large swaths of the now-blighted, rusted-out city would be turned back into the fields and farmland. The city would pump new investment into stronger neighborhoods, which would become pockets in expanses of green.
For much of the 20th century, Detroit was an industrial powerhouse. Now, the city of nearly 2 million in the 1950s has less than half that number. According to one recent estimate, Detroit has 33,500 empty houses and 91,000 vacant residential lots.
Federal money for renewal work will help tear down 2,500 to 3,000 homes this year and a similar number next year. Focusing on ones near schools and churches, the city will spend $26 million to $28 million on the demolitions, Bing said.
Bing also is seeking money to rehabilitate homes identified as being in better shape.
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