Detroit Future City (DFC), a plan put together by a coalition of businesses, non-profits, and government officials, has come under scrutiny by a group of organizations called Healthy Neighborhoods for a Healthy Detroit that see the DFC plan as less than ideal. The group – let’s call them Healthy Detroit – has decided to take a Health Impact Assessment approach in evaluating the DFC plan. Their conclusion is that the DFC planning process wasn’t very transparent, and that health impacts have not been taken into consideration during the process, especially for the areas of the city it proposes to end the provision of services to. A post on The GRID by blogger Meg Mulhall speaks more directly to the disconnection of services to the disenfranchised neighborhoods in Detroit. The Huffington Post takes a decidedly different view of the Detroit Future City plan and beams about its inclusions, which focus on economic growth, land use, city systems, neighborhood revitalization, physical assets and civic engagement. This plan is beautiful, there is no denying that.
From a stand land use planning perspective, I must say I agree with HuffPo and that the DFC plan does have some exciting inclusions, like the possibility for a live-make zone, where artisans can create and live in the same spaces. But, it is arguable that a plan touting its city’s potential as a “future city” should include at least a modicum of attention to public health impacts made by the built environment. The AMA has officially declared obesity a disease, and obesity rates are higher in the US than any other country, you’d be a fool not to consider this in a 21st century planning effort.
Detroit has had its problems of late – auto industry decline (though it’s recovering), real estate collapse, real estate market monopoly, etc. etc. – but it can position itself as a truly innovative city by embracing the next generation of planning tools, such as HIAs, which would enable the city to leverage its proposed community garden corridors and its young, talented creative class.