Detroit is the epicenter of the nation’s most pressing urban planning problems, particularly as it enters the uncharted territory of emergency management, bankruptcy, and an elected administration fighting to restore democracy. The demographics of the city, from the massive population loss over the last forty years, to the striking racial segregation in the region, are things that we must experience in person before we can truly understand them. Its history has even richer implications on the state of Detroit, planned as the major American Automotive city, destroyed by the construction of the highway system and racial inequality and further eroded by mismanagement and corruption. While cities across the country have experienced similar distress, Detroit represents the most extreme versions of problems in the urban core. Yet many planning students have never visited Detroit. This trip will serve to contextualize urban planning issues in the canonical distressed city. As a lifelong resident of Detroit with ties to the political, academic, and organizing communities in Detroit, this is a perfect opportunity to activate my network on behalf of the Luskin community. So far, I have ten committed students who want to participate in this trip in both the first and second years. We plan to cap the trip at 12 students, including myself.

Goals and Objectives

The program goal is to organize a three-pronged trip that explores government administration, community organizations, and planning-related research in Detroit. We will consider Detroit’s history, current political and socioeconomic struggles, and plans and promise for its future. We are particularly conscious of avoiding this trip becoming a “tour of poverty.” This trip must be substantive to students and to the city of Detroit. As such, our trip will engage city administrators, nonprofit leaders, and community stakeholders to help paint a picture of Detroit that considers the whole community, highlighting the uniqueness as well as the struggles.


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