Also today: How corporate tax incentives rob school budgets, and how cities design themselves.
Today on CityLab
dec 11, 2018

What We’re Following

Motor City shuffle: Last month, General Motors announced plans to shut down its Detroit-Hamtramck plant, one of only two remaining auto plants in the Motor City, named for its location straddling the border of the two cities. Much to GM’s annoyance, almost everyone else has always called the plant “GM Poletown,” after the Detroit neighborhood that was bulldozed using eminent domain to build the facility. That’s a legacy that the automaker might be happy to forget. But Detroiters old enough to remember are asking once again whether the destruction of Poletown was worth it.

A new documentary, Poletown Lives!, captures the resistance mounted in 1981 to stop the razing of homes, businesses, and churches. “This is America, not Russia,” raged one retiree at a public meeting the city held to explain how the neighborhood’s 4,200 residents were to be relocated. “We’re not going to let you do this. We’re going to fight like hell.” (Here’s a preview of the film, which airs Thursday on Detroit Public Television.)

The saga offers a larger lesson for cities about sacrifice on the altar of economic development. Today, the area is little more than a grid of streets laid over a barren landscape that on some blocks feels almost rural. Now that the plant is shutting down, some residents are hoping there’s still a chance to resurrect Poletown. Today on CityLab: If GM Shuts Down This Plant, Can The Community It Destroyed Come Back?

Andrew Small


More on CityLab

How Corporate Tax Incentives Rob Public School Budgets

A new Good Jobs First study shows that corporate tax incentives—like those given for Amazon HQ2—have diverted almost $2 billion from public schools.

Sarah Holder

How Cities Design Themselves

Urban planner Alain Bertaud’s new book, Order Without Design, argues that cities are really shaped by market forces, not visionaries.

Nolan Gray

California’s Battle Against Climate Change Is Going Up in Smoke

The 2018 wildfire season released emissions equal to a year of the state’s power use.

Rosa Furneaux

Mayors Should Take a Stand Against a Future Amazon HQ2

Calling on federal government to regulate economic incentives is a cop-out. It’s time for America’s big cities and mayors to stand up to companies like Amazon.

Richard Florida

Why Wisconsin Will Drug Test SNAP Recipients

As Governor Scott Walker and other GOP lawmakers exit office, they're leaving behind a bill that seeks to stigmatize food aid, a political scientist says.

Emily Moon


Side of a seesaw

(Alexandra Marvar)

Can a playground memorialize the damage a highway caused to a community? That’s what conceptual artist Derrick Adams evokes with “America’s Playground.” The interactive installation pays homage to Miami’s Overtown neighborhood, which was nearly destroyed in the 1960s by an extension of Interstate 95. The highway tore through an established black community, cutting it off from the more affluent parts of the city. With a mirror-image playground—one side stark and monochromatic, the other awash in color—the piece focuses on a surprising consequence of the highway project: the erosion of a community park. Today on CityLab: Remembering How a Highway Gutted a Bastion of Black Miami


What We’re Reading

How Amazon Prime will change the way our cities look (Boston Globe)

The rise of the architect-developer (Curbed)

California will require solar panels on all new homes (Next City)

Hundreds of complaints flood in about New York store signs, but from whom? (New York Times)

Apologies for yesterday’s broken link. Here’s this one again: Inside the Philadelphia DA’s side hustle: selling seized homes to speculators and cops (PlanPhilly)


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