Urban Renewal And The Detroit Riots: A Connection?

You may remember a photo that I posted several weeks ago on MUR’s Facebook Group. It was of Hastings Street, the black business district in Detroit destroyed by urban renewal. Many of the occupants were relocated in the 1960s to a neighborhood just west known as 12th Street.

If 12th Street sounds familiar, that was the area destroyed by the 1967 riots. While many factors have been cited for why people rioted – from police harassment, to job loss, to the cramped housing conditions caused by redlining – I suspect urban renewal was a factor. People living and working around 12th were the same ones whose previous community had been destroyed/divided.

On Sunday I had coffee with an activist, Marsha Music, who agreed with this hypothesis. And she would know: her dad had a famous recording studio that was moved from Hastings to 12th, then destroyed again several years later in the riots. She now does public talks in Detroit that are meant both to show the initial vibrancy along Hastings Street (at the very time it was being labeled a “slum”); and to warn today’s urban planners against such hubris. You should look her up if you visit Detroit.

Scott Beyer
Scott Beyer owns and manages The Market Urbanism Report. He is a roving cross-country journalist who writes regular columns for Forbes, Governing Magazine and HousingOnline.com.