Detroit may clear out vacant buildings in order to move past recent history

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For generations, residents of this hollowed-out city hoped that somehow Detroit could be reborn — its population would return and its crumbling core would be rebuilt. No idea was more heretical than widespread demolition of thousands of derelict buildings.

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.

“People are deciding we can’t live like this anymore,” said Steven A. Ogden, executive director of a nonprofit group, Next Detroit Neighborhood Initiative, which works to help stabilize communities. “It is my contention that we can’t afford to wait a single day without a strategy.”

Full story: To Save Itself, Detroit Is Razing Itself