Land Use

The history of the city land use, starting from Land Ordinance of 1785, which promoted square townships that can be seen in neighborhoods today such as Oakland and Macomb Counties. More importantly, due to respect for Thomas Jefferson, state constitution followed closely in his ideals of a “home rule” government where the power of governing is rested mainly upon local levels. In 1908, Michigan government passed the Home Rule Cities Act which gave immense powers to municipalities and townships in terms of regulating land use and resources. This allowed Detroit to annex nearby townships and between 1920 to 1925, Detroit grew by 400% through annexations and became a mixture of 27 villages, 89 municipalities, and 115 townships over 7 counties [1]. More importantly, Greenfield and Hamtramck Townships resisted the annexation despite being enclosed inside the city of Detroit physically. Corporate power of Ford and Dodge successfully lobbied the local governments to “incorporate the townships into the cities of Highland Park and Hamtramck” in order to avoid higher tax rates in Detroit. This left two cities within Detroit yet are not under direct Detroit municipal. Ironically, both cities would suffer enormously from auto industry failure and Highland Park has been operated “under state receivership” to this day.

Fig. 1: The borders of cities of Highland Park (orange) and Hamtramck (yellow) today inside Detroit (grey). Source: Google Maps, 2016. [1]
Detroit extends to about 139 square miles but now approximately has 25% of its land left to complete abandonment [2]. This amount of land is even bigger than the size of Manhattan. Those who can afford to move out had migrated into the Greater Detroit suburbs and left behind the disadvantaged families, most of whom are African-Americans. The city demographic is now about 80% blacks. Hit by both economic consequences of deindustrialization and damages of suburban sprawl, the city has become the epitome of planning disaster and carries with it a post-apocalyptic picture of postmodern cities. Even with highest murder, poverty, and unemployment rates, Detroit holds the potential to be restored to bring former inhabitants back into the area and draw other citizens to live there. To do so, a definitive plan to revitalize the area is imperative.


Works Cited:

  1. Sculpting Detroit: Polity and Economy Trump Geology. (2012). Sculpting Detroit: Polity and Economy Trump Geology. InDriving Detroit: The Quest for Respect in the Motor City (pp. 45–68). University of Pennsylvania Press. Retrieved from
  2. Lawson, L., & Miller, A.. (2013). Community Gardens and Urban Agriculture as Antithesis to Abandonment: Exploring a Citizenship-Land Model. In M. DEWAR & J. M. THOMAS (Eds.),The City After Abandonment (pp. 17–40). University of Pennsylvania Press. Retrieved from

List of Figures:

  1. “Highland Park and Hamtramck”. Maps. Google Maps. 2016.