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monsoon

Detroit's Airport City

Airport City Plans  

59 members have voted

  1. 1. Are the plans for Airport City Feasible and good for the Metro?

    • Yes - It is good for revival
      29
    • No - It will take resources away from the city
      9
    • I don't think it will be built
      20


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March 1, 2026:

Gathering speed on the immensely popular light rail line from downtown Detroit to Metro Airport is a car full of executives on their way to Manila. It's a beautiful sky-blue day. As the train leaves the station stop in Taylor, passengers gain an eye-level view of the Detroit area's newly built, ultra-modern and world-renowned Airport City. This is the eastern edge of a 25,000-acre stretch of western Wayne County that not long ago was a congested mismatch of aging neighborhoods, cracked parking lots, traffic-clogged highways and featureless warehouses stretching from Dearborn Heights to Willow Run Airport. Souce Detroit Metro Times

There are apparently plans to build a modern 21st century city of 450,000 in the Detroit metro as described in this article. What are your feelings towards these plans? Will it help or hurt the area or will it even be built?

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Sounds like a great, even if far-fetched plan. If it could work it would help the entire region, I don't think it good do anything but good.

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Don't be so pessimistic, the money is out there, the problem is just convincing people to build in "Airport City" rather than other suburbs, and also to attract completely new people and development. In some of the Arab and Asian countries they are experimentinf with building entire new cities, and I've heard it's going well. The day for developments like this has to come someday, it's just a matter of how long it gets put off.

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I'm sure the Congress for New Urbanism could tell you how to start building the kinds of neighborhoods you'll need with the proper density in the Airport City region to one day build the mass transit to really complete the vision. But it is possible to build the neighborhoods first. Likewise in the rest of the metro area, we can build denser New Urban neighborhoods along potential transit corridors, thus making the implementation in those corridors more likely in the future. So new residential and commercial developments around metro airport can be considered "sprawl" but they can also be built as future core-strengthening transit-oriented suburbs.. which are desirable with and without the transit. It's something Novi has in some ways tried to achieve but completely missed the point and scale beyond the superficial.

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New Urbanism has failed to work in most applications in cold-weather areas.....

Situations like this are working in Arab and Asian countries because many of these locations are experiencing what Detroit did in the 1920's......a massive move from rural to urban areas.

The vast majority of people will not give up their own modes of transportation until it becomes unfeasible to transport themselves...(mass transit works in places like Chicago and NYC because it is too expensive to park a car downtown, and takes much longer to drive downtown than take the train)

18ppl per acre.....not likely in an area with plenty of acreage, and stable, if not declining property values.

350K in jobs.....with only 450K in residents (at 18ppl per acre) would mean that about 200K would have to come in from surrounding areas for work.....

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I'm sure the Congress for New Urbanism could tell you how to start building the kinds of neighborhoods you'll need with the proper density in the Airport City region to one day build the mass transit to really complete the vision. But it is possible to build the neighborhoods first. Likewise in the rest of the metro area, we can build denser New Urban neighborhoods along potential transit corridors, thus making the implementation in those corridors more likely in the future. So new residential and commercial developments around metro airport can be considered "sprawl" but they can also be built as future core-strengthening transit-oriented suburbs.. which are desirable with and without the transit. It's something Novi has in some ways tried to achieve but completely missed the point and scale beyond the superficial.

WHOOSH! Right over my head :lol:

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...The vast majority of people will not give up their own modes of transportation until it becomes unfeasible to transport themselves...(mass transit works in places like Chicago and NYC because it is too expensive to park a car downtown, and takes much longer to drive downtown than take the train)....

I agree wholeheartly with your statement.

I don't see Metro Detroiters embracing mass transportation in droves anytime soon.

Detroit is "Motown" and the "Motor City". It was built up mostly from the auto industry and unfortunately today is still pretty dependent on auto and related industries. People around here do love their cars or events like the Woodward Dream Cruise wouldn't be as successful as they are.

I think it's either an ego/status or maybe a job security thing around here probably more than anywhere else in the country....AND people like the freedom to be able to move around freely and come and go as they please.

ALSO Downtown Detroit is easily accessible from all directions because of the great freeway grid that it has.

I personally know that it got to where it was more convenient for me to drive to work when I worked Downtown. I worked (and went to high school) there for more than 29 years...(yeah, I'm forty-something)...it only took me twenty minutes to get to work on I-94 and my parking was subsidized by my employer, so it only cost me $40 a month for covered parking. The SEMTA or SMART bus pass would have cost me $60 a month. It was enough of a difference in money and convenience that I decided to drive the last few years I worked Downtown. (The dollar figures are from about 3 years ago.)

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In addition....what is the purpose of building a new high-density area when the original high-density area (The City of Detroit) is under-utilized.....

Airport City 18ppl per acre

Detroit (current) 8 ppl per acre

Detroit (max population in 1950) 21ppl per acre

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New Urbanism has failed to work in most applications in cold-weather areas.....

Not sure where you're getting that from as there are plenty of successful New Urbanist applications in cold climate areas, although the failure of first generation lifestyle malls aren't things that are considered New Urbanist.

As for the purpose, you are missing the whole point. Wayne County development guy wanting to synergize with the two nearby airports in his area. Like it or not, tons of sprawl development is going on west of metro airport, particularly in Canton Township. Yes, it's a damn shame it's not all happening in Detroit. But since it's not, we can consider better ways of channeling that development.

Eighteen people per acre, so that's about 10k per sq. mile. Hamtramck has that today. Hamtramck has plenty of cars. You can have density and cars!

People like the convenience of cars. But many people also like the convenience of walkable neighborhood amenities. That is part of what New Urbanism is about. Building at this density does NOT require removing all cars. It DOES allow you to do more without one.

As for the thought of this 'Airport City' increasing significantly in size during the daytime, there are already several Detroit suburbs that do this. It's not some unimaginable situation even if it's ambitious.

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Not sure where you're getting that from as there are plenty of successful New Urbanist applications in cold climate areas, although the failure of first generation lifestyle malls aren't things that are considered New Urbanist.

As for the purpose, you are missing the whole point. Wayne County development guy wanting to synergize with the two nearby airports in his area. Like it or not, tons of sprawl development is going on west of metro airport, particularly in Canton Township. Yes, it's a damn shame it's not all happening in Detroit. But since it's not, we can consider better ways of channeling that development.

Eighteen people per acre, so that's about 10k per sq. mile. Hamtramck has that today. Hamtramck has plenty of cars. You can have density and cars!

People like the convenience of cars. But many people also like the convenience of walkable neighborhood amenities. That is part of what New Urbanism is about. Building at this density does NOT require removing all cars. It DOES allow you to do more without one.

As for the thought of this 'Airport City' increasing significantly in size during the daytime, there are already several Detroit suburbs that do this. It's not some unimaginable situation even if it's ambitious.

It is actually about a 11.5K per sq mile

and like it or not.....this is still sprawl....no better than what is happening Canton.....it is just "sexier" to certain folks.....

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Yes, 11.5k not 10k (I was rounding). Still, Hamtramck's last census was about 23k in 2 square miles which is 11.5k and it used to be 50k and unofficial estimates currently approach 30k (undocumented residents).

It surely is better than what's happening in Canton from perspectives such as sustainability. It's smart growth versus uncontrolled sprawl. It's also desireable from many economic perspectives such as creating jobs more efficiently and straining the region's infrastructure less (which is why the rest of the region has a stakehold in such developments even if they're not living or working there).

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Anybody who thinks this would remotely be like Canton TWP doesn't know what this is.

This is Canton TWP

comparison.jpg

Airport City would have:

1. dense, walkable neighborhoods

2. extensive public transporation

3. neighborhood retail/offices

4. abundant recreational opportunities

Canton TWP doesn't have any of that.

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Now what makes anyone think their is demand for dense, walkable neighborhoods.....mixed-use zoning, or extensive public transporation....

Suburbs are what they are because that is what people want.

This is not field of dreams.....just because you build it, does not mean people will come.

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I don't see any sense in this "Airport City." Perhaps if the metro ever gets into better shape with cities connected by meaningful rail connections I could see something like this happening, but without reliable mass transit, this thing just wouldn't "work" for the metro.

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Now what makes anyone think their is demand for dense, walkable neighborhoods.....mixed-use zoning, or extensive public transporation....

There is a lot more demand for it than you may think. You assume people won't use public transportation because they don't use it now. There are only about six cities in the U.S. that have extensive public transporation. New York, Washington, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and maybe a few others. Guess which cities have the highest percentage of public transit users? New York, Washington, Boston, etc. In New York over half of all residents use public transportation to get to and from work. That doesn't include people who use it for other reasons (school, shopping, etc.) In Washington, Boston, and San Francisco, about 1 in 3 use public transporationt to get to and from work.

1. New York - 52.8% (62% if you don't include people who walk, bike, or work at home.)

2. Washington - 33.2%

3. Boston - 32.3%

4. San Francisco - 31.1%

5. Chicago - 26.1%

6. Philadelphia - 25.4%

So yes, I do believe that if you build it they will come, because every time they have built a transit line people have come.

Also, as far as dense, walkable neighborhoods, you'd be surprised how many people prefer that over the stuff you see going up in the exurbs.

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Conversely, if you build completely subsidized freeways, they will also come to that. Unfortunately, those freeways aren't as free as they seem.

Hudkina, thanks for the comparative satellite photos.

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I really think the last thing metro Detroit needs, at the moment, is another "downtown" node. Again, if this was a properly functioning metro with effective mass transportation connections, another node would be a good idea. But private transit being the only real option, what you get is simply more sprawl, and a more disjointed metro. I think the idea of this "Airport City," at the moment, is putting the cart before the horse.

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There is a lot more demand for it than you may think. You assume people won't use public transportation because they don't use it now. There are only about six cities in the U.S. that have extensive public transporation. New York, Washington, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and maybe a few others. Guess which cities have the highest percentage of public transit users? New York, Washington, Boston, etc. In New York over half of all residents use public transportation to get to and from work. That doesn't include people who use it for other reasons (school, shopping, etc.) In Washington, Boston, and San Francisco, about 1 in 3 use public transporationt to get to and from work.

1. New York - 52.8% (62% if you don't include people who walk, bike, or work at home.)

2. Washington - 33.2%

3. Boston - 32.3%

4. San Francisco - 31.1%

5. Chicago - 26.1%

6. Philadelphia - 25.4%

So yes, I do believe that if you build it they will come, because every time they have built a transit line people have come.

Also, as far as dense, walkable neighborhoods, you'd be surprised how many people prefer that over the stuff you see going up in the exurbs.

Which goes back to an earlier post......peopel will not use public transportation unless they "have to" (due to driving being to much of a pain).

New York, Washington, Boston, San Fran, Chicago......parking downtown is expensive, and not always available. The cities were built for public transportation.....Detroit was not.

Instead of comparing Metro Detroit to cities which are not in the same league as the city, why don't you compare Detroit to places like Dallas, LA, Phoenix, and other communities that were not built with public transportation as their backbone.

The only way to make people use public transporation is to make the pain of driving too much ofr hte average person to handle.

Now, given the fact that the entire Metro Detroit area was built with driving in mind, how do you get companies employing 350K of workers to relocated into Airport City with them knowing that they will not be "as convienient" to their workers as say relocating to Troy, or Livonia, where people can park close to work, and are not bound by the bus or train schedule.

I really think the last thing metro Detroit needs, at the moment, is another "downtown" node. Again, if this was a properly functioning metro with effective mass transportation connections, another node would be a good idea. But private transit being the only real option, what you get is simply more sprawl, and a more disjointed metro. I think the idea of this "Airport City," at the moment, is putting the cart before the horse.

perhaps if a good portion of Detroit was leveled, and this concept was applied there....in a central area which is already high density, it might actually be a possibility.

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For one, this isn't a comparison of what currently is Detroit and what currently is Washington or San Francisco. Only about 8% of Detroit residents currently use public transporation, and that number is even lower if you include the suburbs. Secondly, you are correct in thinking that not all people will want to use public transporation. There are people who will always prefer the freedom of driving a car.

However, if given the choice, there is a large percentage of people who would in fact choose public transporation knowing that A. the cost is cheaper than driving and B. the commute time is in the same range as driving. Ironically I could take the bus to work every day. There is a bus stop directly outside of my front door and directly outside the front door of my work. The problem isn't that I don't want to take the bus, because I would if I could. The cost would only be $3 a day (there and back) and the time difference would be less than a few minutes. The problem is that the bus schedule does not coincide with my work schedule. And I'm sure many other would follow suit.

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Also, this isn't meant as a replacement for Detroit as it serves a completely different purpose. This is meant as a replacement for Novi or Canton TWP or in the future Superior TWP or Richmond TWP. This is meant to curb the amount of unchecked sprawl that is eating away the rural fringe. This is meant to curb all of the disconnected office parks that are popping up all across the metro. This is meant to curb the amount of shopping centers that are being constructed further and further into the countryside.

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Also, this isn't meant as a replacement for Detroit as it serves a completely different purpose. This is meant as a replacement for Novi or Canton TWP or in the future Superior TWP or Richmond TWP. This is meant to curb the amount of unchecked sprawl that is eating away the rural fringe. This is meant to curb all of the disconnected office parks that are popping up all across the metro. This is meant to curb the amount of shopping centers that are being constructed further and further into the countryside.

but you will never curb the suburbs, as there is demand for that type of dwelling also.

Where I live, we have multpile "New Urbanism" developments that are quite large, and all are successful......but they are certainly not growing any faster than the typical sprawl that occurs (although in standard developments in Orlando, builders put 5-6 homes per acre, instead of the 2-4 seen in places like Troy).

One problem with New Urbanism movements is that they are trendy, builders know they are trendy, so the home prices are much higher....I lived in Celebration http://www.celebrationfl.com/ for 2 years (in a condo) where the average home being built was in the 450K-1million+ range.....and although they were nice homes (it looked like Bay City on steroids) I certainly would rather have the option of my own screened in yard and pool than community pools....you get more for your money in the area I live now http://www.hunterscreek.net/ .

A developer is converting the old Naval Training Base here in Orlando to http://www.baldwinparkfl.com/web/ which has a decent chance of being a true new urban environment given its location in the city center.....but again....home prices are $600K plus.....1200 sq ft condos are $400K+....not affordable for most people...although most of downtown here is high-priced.

Any interesting note about sprawl....as it is a universal issue. My city has a ton of infill projects going on.....condo towers downtown, or infill townhomes and condos throughout the city neighborhoods (again....all priced high, which is restrictive to many people)....and the anti-sprawl people love that this is happening.....but as Orlando has a solid downtown/urban housing stock (with prices much higher than in the suburbs thanks to people moving into downtown from the suburbs and refurbing) the urban residents are now trying to stop the infill development to keep density from getting too high.

Unfortunately, Winter Park (our version of Birmingham, but directly adjacent to Orlando) just voted in an anti-Developement Mayor......considering the town has been 100% developed (so all new developement is bigger/better redevelopment) this is not good, and will lead to more sprawl.

http://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/index.ph...ic=9629&st=260#

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Which goes back to an earlier post......peopel will not use public transportation unless they "have to" (due to driving being to much of a pain).

New York, Washington, Boston, San Fran, Chicago......parking downtown is expensive, and not always available. The cities were built for public transportation.....Detroit was not.

Instead of comparing Metro Detroit to cities which are not in the same league as the city, why don't you compare Detroit to places like Dallas, LA, Phoenix, and other communities that were not built with public transportation as their backbone.

The only way to make people use public transporation is to make the pain of driving too much ofr hte average person to handle.

Now, given the fact that the entire Metro Detroit area was built with driving in mind, how do you get companies employing 350K of workers to relocated into Airport City with them knowing that they will not be "as convienient" to their workers as say relocating to Troy, or Livonia, where people can park close to work, and are not bound by the bus or train schedule.

perhaps if a good portion of Detroit was leveled, and this concept was applied there....in a central area which is already high density, it might actually be a possibility.

People will take transit if it's convenient, that's really all it is. More convenient can simply mean being able to spend an hour sleeping or reading rather than sitting in highway parking lots for an hour. Economical can mean not having to have a car each for husband and wife and one for each teenage child, not because it's necessarily a hassle to keep a car or to drive it but that having one each is unnecessary and therefore a waste of money.

Companies often relocate to downtowns even if parking is more expensive to provide than in the suburbs. You seem to be saying that this is an all or nothing situation, that all future development would occur either in Airport City or in Troy. That all people want to live in Canton Twp-like subdivisions at any cost. The fact is that healthy metros can offer a diversity of lifestyle and workplace environments, from cul-de-sacs to mixed-use urban.

Also, both Dallas and L.A. already have light rail networks. L.A. also has a subway. Detroit once had the largest municipal streetcar (light rail) system with cars coming by every 90 seconds at peak, which it dismantled as the auto took over, and the city also considered building a subway before economic trouble prevented it, so it's not true to say the entire metro was built only with driving in mind.

You're also forgetting that the purpose for building an airport city is mainly to take advantage of the existing assets, the two airports. Obviously, not all businesses can really take much advantage of that and may as well go to any other suburb, but the idea is to create new transportation-related jobs.

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Article in the July/August 2006 Issue of Fast Company

Rise of the Aerotropolis by Greg Lindsay (pg 76-85)

This is the portion of the article which mentions Detroit.

"...In January, Kasarda made a similar pitch to another hard-bitten city: Detroit. He had been asked to make his usual stump speech for a group of 60 or so University of Michigan architecture students who were about to undergo an annual urban-planning exercise known as a "charrette." Held every year by the dean of Michigan's architecture school, each charrette contemplates a different aspect of Detroit's ongoing attempt at urban renewal--which makes for plenty of ground to cover.

This year's installment opened with the possibility of a Detroit aerotropolis as its premise. Nearly unique among major U.S. cities, Detroit has 25,000 acres of woods and open fields surrounding its main airport, a hub for Northwest Airlines. Just seven miles to the west--a straight shot along I-94--is a second, smaller airport, Willow Run, which caters to the chartered cargo and corporate jets of the Big Three automakers and their assorted suppliers. If one were to link the airfields with the highway, and with mass transit stretching to downtown Detroit, the spine for an aerotropolis would be in place.

Upon emerging three days later, three student teams presented master plans that offered everything from full-fledged logistics hubs around Willow Run to a grand boulevard running through a greenbelt of mixed-use neighborhoods and office parks designed in the high style of Silicon Valley. The aerotropolis, they concluded, could stem the massive brain drain from local universities and the entire region. It could anchor a new city, with 100,000 new residents, in Wayne County's western suburbs. Kasarda was ecstatic: "This could turn around all of southeastern Michigan!" And his hosts became his newest converts.

Three months later, Mulu Birru, Wayne County's economic development guru, presented a "best of" compilation of the students' designs to his boss, Wayne County executive Robert Ficano, along with a "nonbinding memorandum of understanding" for building the aerotropolis--a plea to the governor to grant them the cash and the planning powers necessary to bring Detroit and adjoining communities to the table. Birru, who worked a minor miracle by helping to turn Pittsburgh around, sees a Detroit aerotropolis as a haven for "green" architecture and a magnet for auto suppliers, biotech firms, ethanol plants, and just about any other technology-intensive business you can think of. In fact, auto-parts outfits such as Visteon, Magna, and the Chinese entrant Century Automotive have either built or are eyeing new campuses in the aerotropolis zone. (Many auto components today are lightweight and digital, and thus easily shipped by air.)

After our meeting, Birru's deputy and I drive off for another aerotropolis-site inspection, wending our way through the parking lot of Visteon Village, home to some 3,000 auto-parts workers and nearly as self-contained as the 19th-century New England mill town it resembles. We take the back roads to the future grounds of the Pinnacle Aeropark, a parcel of open land just south of Detroit's airport that will serve as a prototype for the aerotropolis when ground is broken next year.

At one point, we pull over next to a field of dandelions less than a mile from the runways. These thousand acres are set to become the Entertainment Center, a Magna-supported vision that could have been a leftover sketch from Suvarnabhumi. Hotels, a casino, a performing-arts center, retail, and even a horse-racing track (Magna's entertainment division happens to own Pimlico) would all sit here, cheek by jowl.

When you stand there, the airport peeking out from behind the overpass suddenly seems an optimistic symbol. It makes as much sense--and probably more--for the people of Detroit to orbit a new global portal as it does for them to cling to some frayed and decrepit version of Jane Jacobs's ideal. It's an opportunity for the city to start fresh, to recast itself in our networked economy's own image. It's a chance that Detroit, of all places, can ill afford to miss. The rest of us had better take good notes."

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