I just returned from visiting my girlfriend Libby in Michigan and parents in Maine. In Michigan Libby and I stayed at the Inn on Ferry Street, ate a Coney dog, saw a Tigers game, browsed the shelves in John King Books North, and spent time in Ferndale and Royal Oak. I noticed construction has begun on the long vacant Book-Cadillac Hotel in downtown Detroit, and there seems to be a lot of other development along the Woodward Corridor. In Maine, I went to the Yarmouth Clam Festival, had a lobster roll from Bayley’s, and biked on a Maine segment of the East Coast Greenway. I also saw Tom, who’s been doing lots of work on his house lately.
On the plane to Michigan I read Justice Thomas’s extremely interesting dissent in Kelo v. New London (the 2005 Supreme Court Case where the court held economic redevelopment qualified as a public use under eminent domain law), where after arguing for an originalist interpretation of “public use” he throws in a paragraph about how eminent domain has been used to displace poor and black communities, concluding that “Regrettably, the predictable consequence of the Court’s decision will be to exacerbate these effects.” I first read about the dissent on this blog post on blackprof.com which contains Emma Coleman Jordan’s analysis.
I also read an article published in the Journal of Urban History in January by Blake Gumprecht examining the geography of college towns by using Ithica, New York as a case study. I found the article quite interesting and I think there are many similarities between Ithaca and Ann Arbor. Gumprecht describes the various communities of the “highly segregated” college town including the status-seeking greeks, NIMBY faculty neighborhoods (“You don’t want to live next door to an undergraduate student house. One property, one bad apple, can cause a whole flight.”), and the familiar student ghetto with both modern and dilapidated rental housing. Describing the development of Ithaca’s Collegetown, Gumprecht throws in this tidbit: “The city encouraged development by temporarily suspending building – high limits and parking requirements. Over a ten-year period, more than a dozen apartment buildings, capable of housing 1,70 people, were built.” (p. 255) How’s that for pent-up demand? The article is available online here: “Fraternity Row, the Student Ghetto, and the Faculty Enclave.” (PDF)
On the topic of reading, I also finished a borrowed copy of “The First Days of School.” Although mostly relevant to K-12 teachers, it did contain some tips I’m sure will be useful for the class of 18-year-old freshman I’ll be TAing this fall. Ironically, it was in Maine where I discovered the book “Saving the Neighborhood: You Can Fight Developers and Win!” at a church book sale. The book is a NIMBY handbook written by a DC resident and published in 1990. The examples of citizen activism include a petition to stop the construction of an office building on Wisconsin Avenue in Northwest, and the entire book seems full of DC-area examples.
I like Gumprecht’s article…to a point. It is largely descriptive and I don’t think it adds much theoretically (or methodologically) to our discourse on urban history or urbanism. There are a few tidbits in there, though.
A very interesting paper on campus planning indeed. Lots of similarities can be drawn to University of MD (minus the elite frat houses) and probably most other land grant universities. Anyone interested may want to look at http://www.asg-architects.com/research/history/index.htm, http://www.asg-architects.com/research/comparing/campuses/index.htm, and that company’s whole site in general.
I love to write and I am also very opinionated. I often wonder why people are drawn to write and show what they have lived thru…
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