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.