Save Detroit! One Inch, One Dollar at a Time


Detroit is shrinking. Coming in just under a million in the 2000 census (the first time its population had dropped that low since the ’20s), Detroit is now down another 150,000 or more. Foreclosed or otherwise abandoned homes are everywhere, some more prominently than others–consider the Ice House, or Detroit Demolition Disneyland. Mayor Dave Bing is shuttering city departments and bulldozing vacant buildings (hopefully not Michigan Central Station, which bravely faces its own uncertain future, an empty shell of its former self). Detroit has 40 square miles of empty land.

What to do? Well, you could farm it, like John Hantz is proposing. But as Greg Lindsay pointed out here, that might not be the best idea: “With 95% of its remaining buildings still inhabitable, inner-city Detroit should at least be an urban Petri dish.”

It should be, it can be, and it is. Design99 and Motor City boosters like Toby Barlow are advocating saving those houses–and the city–by buying them up cheap (super cheap) and fixing them into homes for artists, locals, or transplants.

Then there’s Loveland, Jerry Paffendorf’s “wild social network of people, literally built out of the dirt.” Paffendorf bought a vacant lot for $500 and sold it, an inch at a time for $1 per inch, to almost 600 “inchvestors” around the world. It’s called Plymouth (pictured above).

Now, Loveland is in phase 2. Paffendorf doesn’t have a new lot to sell, so he’s selling so-called “ghost inches” in order to raise money to fund any number of as-yet unspecified, but sure to be… uh… interesting projects on-line and throughout the city. You can inchvest through kickstarter here.