Land use experts question the way Detroit does business in an era of increased interest in the city, with some arguing the it still negotiates from a position of "desperation."
The experts are quoted by The Detroit News for a story following a recent series of controversial development deals. They include the assembly of 215 acres of land for Fiat Chrysler to build a plant and expand an existing one on the east side. To pull off that deal, the city swapped land with speculators loathed by residents and did so behind closed doors in a roughly 60-day timeline imposed by the company. The Moroun family got more land in Southwest and $43 million out of the negotiations.
Another deal is the Ilitches' District Detroit, an area of once-promised development surrounding Little Caesars Arena that is now a mass of parking lots and blighted vacant buildings. The deal was negotiated during bankruptcy, but since then, Detroit economic officials have given the Ilitch family much leeway, allowing it to tap into additional taxpayer money despite promises not being kept.
Anika Goss, executive director of Detroit Future City, a think tank that follows land use and economic development, tells the paper:
"There are parts of the city where land is much more valuable than it has been for some time. So, before we made decisions based on desperation. It feels like we are using that same culture to make economic decisions.
“We need better tools right now. . . . Our properties, our neighborhoods, our history has value, and that’s the starting point we need when we enter these kind of deals.”
Kurt Metzger, a local urban data analyst, says:
"I agree that, when a city begins to come back, property ownership becomes a critical concern.
"What is needed is a constant monitoring of property records in the city. While we may focus on downtown, the real story is what is going on in the neighborhoods."
Ann Bowman, a professor at Texas A&M’s George Bush School of Government and Public Service, whose class studies Detroit's more than 90,000 Land Bank-owned parcels says:
“There’s a lot of discussion, but I think [the] main theme is this: Don’t give up that land cheaply.”