The real Detroit – "The paper watch dog"

The Detroit Master Plan was used as a proactive, long term planning tool to guide Detroit’s development.

July 7, 2016 - Author: Crystal Wilson, Michigan State University Extension

Part one of two

The Detroit News in co-operation with the Mayor’s Committee for Economic Growth as part of a special report published “The Real Detroit” on Sunday, May 21, 1961. This article discusses Detroit’s first Master Plan, which was labeled “The Paper Watch Dog” by the writer. The Detroit Master Plan was used as a proactive, long term planning tool to guide Detroit’s development and investments in public improvement projects. The article also discusses how the Master Plan and the zoning ordinance guided everything built in Detroit.

A recap of the article published in 1961 states: A paper watchdog looks out for Detroit. It is a thick volume that holds the city’s dreams and guides its destinies. This is the Master Plan. With its companion, the zoning ordinance, it guides everything public or private built in the city. A counterpart in the metropolitan area covers three adjacent counties and part of a fourth.

Detroit was first among the 10 largest American cities to write a master plan. Approved in 1950, it set its objectives 25 years in advance, and constantly is being revised and projected into the future. It guides the development of land use, education, recreation, traffic routes, slum clearance, public hearings and civic and cultural centers.

Since the Master Plan was created, the city has made $800,000 worth of public improvements – the Civic Center, the expressways, new schools, police stations and the like – all of which were programmed years in advance of construction.

In renewing and improving itself, the Detroit area leaves nothing to chance. The paper watchdog takes care of that.

The Detroit News article An Eye to the Future provides a look back in time, and a glimpse of what made Detroit a great city. The Eye to the Future article highlights the importance of the Master Plan and Zoning Ordinance as planning tools used to guide the land use and economic development of Detroit.

Articles on the Master Plan and how it guides land use and development can be found on the Michigan State University Extension website.

Those in Michigan State University Extension that focus on land use provide various training programs on planning and zoning, which are available to be presented in your county. Contact your local land use educator for more information.

Part two – The jack-of-all-trades city

Tags: community, economic development, government, livable communities, msu extension, planning, public policy

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