Yearly Archives: 2013

A signal to retreat to the suburbs? Too late.

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Scattered throughout various locations throughout the City of Detroit, one is likely to run into this unusual sign. It may be unusual in almost any other urban area, but not the Motor City.  In due time, the city could end up removing this traffic light at the intersection of Peterboro Street and Second Avenue altogether.  …Read more…

And on the seventh day…He created a market.

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With this article I venture into what may prove one of my most overtly political topics ever, possibly against better judgment.  Yet I wade into these waters as a deliberate challenge to myself, since I strive to separate the intensive political controversy that this tourist attraction elicits from what I think is more interesting and …Read more…

Sharpening the Cut.

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My latest appeared at Huffington Post a few days ago, but thanks to persistent wifi problems, only today have I been able to link it.  Sorry about that. It focuses on the Dequindre Cut, a high-profile rail-trail conversion in Detroit, whose Phase I (extending about 1.2 miles, from Gratiot Avenue to the Riverfront) has been …Read more…

Not a fork in the road as much as a spoon.

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While it’s easy to derisively brand American suburbia as homogenous and essentially unchanging since it emerged as the preferred settlement pattern for the majority of Americans fifty years ago, we hardly need an intense study to see how much they’ve evolved since the postwar housing boom that began in the late 1940s.  In fact, this …Read more…

Movable, misunderstood apparitions.

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In certain subcultures, it’s become a meme.  But it took me a little while to catch on. Only after driving past this curiosity for three consecutive days did I realize what it was.  It’s not exactly showy, but that’s the point.  Look slightly to the left of the center of this photo, and it should …Read more…

Grow quickly. Live better.

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that, from the perspective of urban sociologists and planners, at least, major discount retailers such as Walmart have thrived on the destruction of commercial activity in traditional town centers.  No doubt my assertion borders on exaggeration, but it would have to, considering I’ve cribbed Jane Austen’s famous (and equally …Read more…

Water tower repartee.

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Even if it’s not a commissioned piece like the mural from my previous post, the landscape of artistic expression in Detroit is rich.  Since such a huge portion of it comes in the form of graffiti—which is almost always by definition an act of vandalism—it’s understandable that my opening sentence might carry a whiff of …Read more…

Testing the mutability of murals.

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Urban murals, once a rarity outside of a few pioneering cities such as Philadelphia, have emerged in the last decade or so as a sine qua non for any big-city civic art initiative.  Philadelphia might still be the national (or even global) leader through its Mural Arts Program, but many other cities are trying to …Read more…

When egalitarianism rests on two wheels.

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With scores of urban advocacy blogs out there, I find it hard to imagine that I have much to add to the conversation on the defining characteristics of Mackinac Island, Michigan.  Even if the northerly island in Lake Huron—a former Jesuit mission, Ojibwa sacred site, and strategic military encampment—elicits little more than a head-scratching among …Read more…