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Detroit got the nickname ‘Motor city’ when it was the centre of the American automotive industry. However, due to the decline of its dominated automotive industry as well as white flight, Detroit has suffered from dramatic population loss, economic decline and urban blight since the 1950s and announced its bankruptcy in 2013. A variety of methods have been adopted to facilitate economic recovery, especially with the guide of Detroit Future City Framework and some of them has achieved initial success. Here are some important lessons from both the decline of Detroit and its effective revival measures.

Economic Diversification

The decline of Detroit has shown that the over-reliance on one industry is highly risky: once the industry encounters difficulties, the financial impact on the city will be extremely large. Therefore, economic diversification is necessary to achieve sustainable development. Plenty of evidence has shown that it is much easier for cities with a more diverse economic base to recover from industrial decline in the post-industrial period. The economic structure of Detroit has been adjusted to include a more diverse array of economic contributors such as medical and educational institutions and “new economy” that related to technology and creative industry so as to promote job growth.

Focused Growth

One of the factors that caused high unemployment and accelerated the economic decline in Detroit is its sprawling regional employment market. Thus, focused growth is essential to maximise the impact of investments and maintain sufficient densities in Detroit. Focused development of the downtown area, neighbourhood centres and employment centres are effective ways to achieve economic recovery and also make good use of the existing infrastructure system.

Social Inclusion and Neighbourhood Stabilisation  

White flight, as one of the main reasons that let Detroit become a ‘shrinking city’, demonstrates that social exclusion and conflicts can seriously impact on urban development. Methods to encourage social inclusion and stabilise neighbourhood include to provide affordable housing for the mixed-income neighbourhood, strengthen local mixed-use centres and improving local public transport.


Carter, D., 2016, Remaking Post-Industrial Cities: Lessons from North America and Europe, New York; London: Routledge

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