City Re-Making Approaches in Contemporary Urbanism : “Re-Urbanism” as a Strategy for the Revitalization of Detroit and Declining Cities

Abstract: Many cities today are experiencing extreme widespread urban decline, at a time when urban growth and revitalization are prioritized on the agenda. This dissertation examines a number of prominent urban revitalization strategies for declining cities, specifically highlighting the emblematic case of Detroit as a research subject. That city offers many lessons as the epitome of both urban decline and urban revitalization, as evidenced through the media narratives surrounding the “rebirth of Detroit” and its positive improvements over recent years. Through this and other case studies, the dissertation investigates different approaches in the leading contemporary paradigms of urbanism, including the role of place-based and heritage-based strategies for the declining city, and their different structural approaches. These include differences sought in both city structure, and in the collaborative structure of revitalizing institutions. From there, the dissertation draws key lessons together into a synthesis approach called “Re-Urbanism” – an advancement of a model originally developed by Robert Fishman. The model describes strategic partnerships between local government entities, private business leaders, private charitable foundations, small scale grass roots activism, and local entrepreneurship, all aimed at making place-based, heritage-based structural reconnections within the city itself. The dissertation concludes with specific policy and practice recommendations, as well as ideas for further research.