Editor's Note: Hit hard by the recession, the once-proud city of Detroit is now a shell of its former self – literally. Parts of Detroit resemble a war zone and the mayor has a radical plan to save the decaying motor city, by shrinking it. Our Jim Acosta has the report.
By Jim Acosta, CNN
(CNN) – This was one of those stories that had me and my producer agonizing over the material left on the cutting room floor. Mostly images that we couldn’t squeeze into our story.
Take our drive with Data Driven Detroit’s Kurt Metzger. He’s the guy who led a team of land surveyors around the city measuring Detroit’s urban blight block by block.
During the drive, we saw recently built Habitat for Humanity homes surrounded by vacant houses. We saw an almost brand new playground in another failed neighborhood. The fence around the pristine play set had fallen and the grass was overgrown. No kids in sight. Our cameras didn’t exaggerate Detroit’s decay. If anything, they couldn’t capture it all.
The old Wayne County office building, a historic landmark, in downtown Detroit has fallen on hard times. The county moved its workers out of the building. Now, only a fraction of the structure is used as a preschool. The rest of the building stands vacant.
Vacancy is a plague on much of the city’s urban core. We wish we had more time to tell the story of Detroit’s once grand train station. It, too, is a sad and empty site. Many of the station’s windows are smashed. It ought to be saved.
There’s also much more that can be said about one of the voices in our piece, the Reverend Dr. Horace Sheffield. If you ever need a history guide through inner-city Detroit, he’s the guy. His father, also a reverend, was a pioneering civil rights leader in the city who marched with Martin Luther King.
The younger Sheffield had plenty of ideas for turning the city around. He’d like to see a summit of church and city leaders search for solutions other than the radical demolition plan put forward by the mayor.
Speaking of the mayor, Dave Bing declined our multiple requests for an interview. His staff said he was simply too busy. It’s too bad. We wanted to press Mayor Bing on how he would have accomplished his goal of demolishing 10,000 dangerous residential structures by the end of his term. This plan will result in the removal of scores of residents. It’s hard to imagine all of them wanting to go. So the painful process of eminent domain, at some point, will likely be part of the plan’s end game.
And finally, apologies to the folks at Hantz Farms. Our interview with the company’s president, Mike Score, didn’t make it into the piece. Hantz hopes to take much of the open space that’s left after Detroit’s mass demolition and turn it into the largest urban farm in the world.
Best of luck to them and everybody in Detroit. The people couldn’t have been nicer during our stay. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again… it’s hard not to root for Detroit.