We come across this very depressing article about how Detroit is becoming ‘unsettled’, in that it is suffering from a massive population decrease, leading to some unprecedented solutions:
But a new momentum has taken hold here that embraces just that: shrinking the city in order to save it.
“There’s nothing you can do with a lot of the buildings now but do away with them,” said Mae Reeder, a homeowner of 35 years on the southeast side, where her bungalow is surrounded by blocks that are being reclaimed by nature, complete with pheasants nesting in vacant spaces where people once lived.
The residential vacancy rate in Detroit is 27.8 percent. This is up from the 10.3 percent rate found in 2000 by the United States census.
One of the problems with the ‘unsettling’ (or is it ‘desettling’) approach is that urban areas have massive amounts of ‘hard’ infrastructure: asphalt, concrete, sewer pipes, water mains, electrical wiring, and so on. Unlike farms from a couple of hundred years ago, which were basically wood structures with some stone, modern settlements–that is, cities–have all sorts of stuff that just doesn’t rot very well (and can even be toxic when it does so).
But I think there’s an opportunity here: why not convert the ‘unsettled’ parts of Detroit to vertical farms? These are essentially multi-story hydroponic farms (and China has adapted the concept to combine farming with apartment buildings).
One knock against vertical farming is that many urban areas don’t have space for it: would anyone knock down parts of Manhattan or Paris to build farms? From an economic perspective, it’s probably not practical. But some cities, like Detroit, have large areas that aren’t being used: former industrial areas, or neighborhoods in decline. These areas already have much of the infrastructure needed for vertical farming–there’s no need to build high-volume water mains or waste disposal systems as there might be in suburban or rural areas which typically don’t (and can’t) cope with that much infrastructure burden.
So, is this totally crazy, or could this be a partial solution towards revitalizing some of our down-on-their-luck urban areas?