Right Size Fits All

September 1, 2010
Detroit’s been in a tough spot for what seems like forever. But a fleet of progressive officials, led by Mayor Dave Bing, is working hard to reimagine the city as a less populous, but no less important, major American city. To help guide the transition, Bing has assembled a team of planners and thinkers who are tasked over the next 12 to 18 months with drafting a strategic framework plan for Detroit, intended to guide near-term investments that stabilize the city and its neighborhoods and position the city for larger economic opportunity in the long term.

At the head of this effort is Toni Griffin, a prominent urban planner best known for her work in Harlem and Washington, D.C. Lured to the city through a grant from the Kresge Foundation, Griffin works closely with Marja Winters, deputy director of Detroit’s Planning and Development Department and a member of the Next American Vanguard. Nate Berg spoke with Griffin and Winters about their efforts to reinvent the city.
This sounds like a pretty big challenge. Are you intimidated by the scope?

Toni Griffin: It is a challenging task and we take it very seriously. But I think it offers such an amazing opportunity that I can’t think of since New Orleans, I guess, which is an American city that has had the opportunity — unfortunately through a disaster — to reinvent itself, reform itself, build on its strengths and position itself in a way it hadn’t been able to before.

Marja Winters: It seems overwhelming at times just because sometimes you have to separate the short term from the long term. There are some things that we know we have to do right now to keep the city moving forward, but at the same time we have to keep the bigger picture in mind.