Tax Increment Financing: Contrasting Effects Essay, Research Paper
suburbanization in america
By: Benjamin Limmer
Limmer (1) AHousing is an outward expression of the inner human nature; no society can be understood apart from the residences of its members.@ That is a quote from the suburban historian Kenneth T. Jackson, from his magnificent piece on suburbanization Crabgrass Frontier. Suburbanization has been probably the most significant factor of change in U.S. cities over the last 50 years, and began 150 years ago. It represents Aa reliance upon the private automobile, upward mobility, the separation of the family into nuclear units, the widening division between work and leisure, and a tendency toward racial and economic exclusiveness.@ Overall it may represent the change in attitude of the American people. Suburbanization has been occurring for the last 150 years in this country and in Europe, although the Europeans haven=t had the change that the United States has witnessed. The causes of change on such a larger scale can be pointed at four aspects of metropolitan areas also pointed out in Jackson=s work on suburbanization. The first on is that Americans have such low density residential areas, and often their is not a distinction between urban and rural. Our cities were laid out over space, with even New York City and Philadelphia not as densely populated as some cities in Europe. The next distinguishing factor is a want to own a home. At least two-thirds of all Americans own their own home, with rates less than half of that present in cities in Europe. Next, is the average length that American travel to work, also being much higher than in other countries. Finally, the last distinguishing factor is that social status and income correlate with suburbs, the further away from the central business district, the higher the income level. It is believed that the average income in cities goes up 8% every mile away from the CBD, with their being many exceptions. Such an economic shift is identified as being a result of Awhite flight@, where the urban Limmer (2) whites fled to the suburbs after WWII, with the immigrants, blacks, and rural dwellers moving in. The economy switched from an industrial economy to a post-industrial or service economy, with the older factories being replaced by smaller factories (computers, airplanes, appliances), requiring higher skilled workers. In effect these new factories were located outside the city in the suburbs. The central city would be left with nothing, and virtually no opportunities of any magnitude. Detroit is a city that I believe can be identified as the city which went through the greatest amount of change, being heavily relied on one industry. During the first half of the twentieth century, Detroit was probably the most economically booming city in the United States. Since about 1950, Detroit has gone from Aarsenal of democracy@, having one of the fastest growing populations and was home to the highest paid working-class workers as well, to losing nearly 1 million people. Many jobs were also lost with many business leaving the city of today empty and sometimes complete city blocks left completely empty. Detroit has also been home to a host of infrastructure woes, as can be reflected in many other cities in the Industrial Belt of the northeast with decaying roads, sewers, and other physical features. What could cause a city to go from such a center of economic activity to a decayed, depopulated, and unemployed? Where did all of the poor come from? Why has racism played such a powerful role in Detroit the last fifty years? What happened to all of the activity and where did it move to? First, I will discuss the period before the great suburbanization process began, to get an idea of what type of shape the city was in. Then I will discuss how Detroit and it=s central city suffered from the process of suburbanization, movement of center of economic activity into counties to the north like Oakland, Macomb, and Livingston. Suburbanization is a complex process with many components, however I have identified four physical things and one Limmer (3) psychological factor that changed American cities. The wave of technological innovation such as the automobile, changes in government policy which brought about the interstate highway system, the segregation into racial and social classes, and the overall shift of economic activity. The one psychological factor that I have identified is that overall, suburbanization represents a change in the attitudes of the American people. These five Apillars@ that I have identified I believe at least triggered the suburbanization process in Detroit. In 1880, the city of Detroit had just over 116,000 residents and was ranked eighteenth in total poplulation (Zunz 3). At that time the city of Detroit was primarily a commercial center in the Great Lake system. In the next forty years, the city would change to a heavy industrial city, thanks to Henry Ford=s utilization of the assembly line. In Zunz book on the Changing Face of Inequality, he introduces seven propositions for the transformation of the city, with each proposition leading to the next one. The first proposition is how in 1880 Detroit was primarily a multiethnic society, with groups clustered together spatially due to a common ethnic background and the social status was on the back-burner. During the turn of the century the city experienced a Asilent social revolution@ and slowly by 1920, groups began to cluster together by social class as well and individual residents in each group would influence the others based solely on social status. The second proposition is that the evaporation of ethnically bounded neighborhoods were caused by upward mobility in the economic system of Detroit. Zunz argues that ethnic divisions were reinforced through upward mobility within a particular ethnic group during the turn of the century and wouldn=t disappear until the evolution of automobile in the city after it was created in 1908 (Detroit Chamber of Commerce). With the automobile and the huge corporations with Limmer (4) it, the locally owned shops and factories would be overrun by the invading whites and their huge factories. Thus, the white middle class virtually took over the city, causing the city=s presence of ethnic diversity to virtually disappear and the economic power to rise in the hands of one group, and for the most part is not any different today. The third proposition is that during the transformation that ethnic divisions were highly apparent and that almost every component in each group differed in some way. This represented the growing difference in the ethnic groups of the city. Those groups that contributed to the growth of the city during the beginning of the 1900’s, often maintained a multiethnic society. The fourth proposition is that ethnic bonds remained so strong during the industrialization process that social status didn=t interfere with unequal working conditions. Labor unions did not have an impact in the city until the evolution of class. The fifth proposition is that many historians believe that early cities around the turn of the century were not segregated. However, even in Detroit certain segregated groups were identified such as Hamtramck, just north of where Wayne State University is today, and that area consisted of Polish immigrants. AWhat really changed from the nineteenth to the twentieth century was the nature of concentration patterns in the city, not their degree.@ The sixth proposition was that the overall size of the city change during the forty years surrounding the turn of the century from 1880-1920. This change in the overall size of the city can be represented by the disappearance of social classes crossing in neighborhoods as was apparent during the nineteenth century, and into more cohesive units of socially grouped residences and factories. The final proposition is that blacks were the last group to arrive in the city of Detroit and Limmer (5) thus experienced a different settlement process than the white immigrants and Alived history in reverse.@ Blacks were forced to try and live outside the dominating white world, and were not included while the factories of the city were expanding. At the beginning of the century, this was only the first of the migrations of the southern blacks to the northern industrial cities. Another migration would come after WWII and would be even more disasterous for the city. These seven propositions explain the condition of the city of Detroit and the transformation that the city went through from 1880-1920. Toward the end of this period we began to see some development of outlying areas, which could be identified as the first suburbs of the city such as Garden City, Dearborn, Hamtramck, and Highland Park, which is the Beverly Hills of Detroit. The Great Depression and WWII immediately following would calm any growth on the fringe of the city, but during the middle of the 1940’s some expansion movements were triggered by the auto industry benefitting from the building of war vehicles. It would not be until the end of the war until the city would experience major growth. The postwar crisis in the city of Detroit could be explained by two factors that remain unresolved today and that is that capitalism creates great economic inequality and that blacks have suffered the most from capitalism. The five pillars will go into trying to explain the suburbanization process in the city of Detroit and identify particular events that had a great effect on the city. The first pillar that would change the city of Detroit during the postwar period would be technological innovations such as the expanding city limits due to the automobile and construction improvements. These two improvements helped the possibility in expansion. Their were many other constructional improvements to aid the building in these massive suburban Limmer (6) communities such as cranes, concrete, and even improvements in the transportation system such as in intersection controls and traffic flows, along with in 1956, the interstate highway system.. The automobile when after it was introduced in 1908, would lead to the expansion of residential areas within the city of Detroit as well as in the suburbs. At first, the infamous Awest side@ of Detroit was one of the largest blue-collar neighborhoods in the United States and was the home to many of the Ford Company workers. On a much larger scale, suburbs were being created at a extraordinary rate and the automobile was doing nothing but supporting this. The car was causing suburban dwellers the migrate farther and farther away from the central city. Before WWII, suburbanites would only migrate to the Oakland County border to the north. After the war, suburban dwellers migrated north not only into Oakland County, but Livingston, Monroe, Washtenaw, and Macomb as well. With all of these automobiles needing to be able to travel to and from the central city, there was a problem of congestion in the city even with the six radiating main roads stretching from the center of the city in all directions (Jackson 165). The interstate highway system, which could go under the policy pillar, but it could also be a technological innovation. The first constructed freeway in Detroit was the Lodge Fwy, with Interstate 94, seen on the next page, connecting the city with the west and Chicago, and soon the new airport was completed around 1960 just a few miles down the road. From there, most of the construction went north adding Interstate 75 (the main one running through Oakland County), seen also with I-94 below, and Interstate 96 which runs to the northeast through more area that would soon be inhabited. The interstates opened up nearly five more counties and would promote growth to these newly accessible areas. Limmer (7) The last technological improvement that I am going to discuss is the balloon-framed house, which is a type of building used to build suburban homes at a massive rate. Some of these communities were known as Levitttowns, which were created by Levitt and Sons. There was not a great number of Levittowns in the Detroit area, but the same idea was there with the newly created suburbs. These communities were characterized as being built identically, with virtually the same layout, same size lot and home, and house the same class of people, remember now hindering primarily on social status. According to Jackson, more than thirty houses went up per day at the peak of production. The second pillar is the passage of some federal policies that promoted growth to the suburbs, often referred to as progressive reform. Housing renewal programs along with public Limmer (8) housing would be evident in the city, but in the suburbs there was mortgage insurance promoting home ownership. The Federal Housing Administration was also created. Owning a home was now possible in cities even as blue-collar as Detroit. This bill inhibited the growth of Levittowns and other suburban developments. The greatest amount of the suburbs were located in Oakland County, which by 1980 was up over 2 million people. Many suburbs grew into large outlying communities, having their own industries and office complexes. Troy is a perfect example of this, not only is it the regional shopping center, it is also home to a variety of offices and a few high tech companies, and has grown into a major suburb. The third pillar and probably the most important when discussing Detroit and the suburbanization process in the metropolitan area is the racial relations factor. Detroit until 1940, consisted of far more than a majority of whites than blacks. Presently, the city is standing at roughly 80% black with in the city limits. After the second World War, Detroit was host a wave southern black migrants who came north to find work in the automobile factories in the city. Unfortunately, when the blacks came to the city the automobile industry was on the downfall and many blacks were already unemployed when they came up. These migrants flocked to the inner city and many communities directly connected to the city of Detroit. There was a great amount of resistance from the whites living in the city, with many of them refusing to let the blacks invade their territory. Many more whites in the city fled to the suburbs as mentioned earlier to escape the inner city, which was being invaded by poor, unskilled black laborers. Resistance in the city grew more strenuous and in July of 1967, a wave a racial riots broke out in the city. Some of the worst of the riots happened in the Twelfth Street district as seen on the next page in the photo. Limmer (9) Limmer (10) Many buildings in the city were also burned or severely damaged. The riots would go down as some of the most quickest and damaging in American history. It was now apparent to everyone, if it wasn=t before, that there is not going to be a cohesive unit of both whites and blacks. From the period from 1940-present, blacks have continued to grow in number in the city of Detroit. Here is a map analyzing the period when they came in the greatest wave, from 1940-1970 on the map of the area on the bottom of the previous page (Thomas 90). As I mentioned earlier, blacks would become the dominating race in the area at almost 80%. In the suburbs, primarily the whites moved out to them, however there were such a large amount and wide variety of blacks that some black suburbs emerged like Westland, Port Huron, and Inkster. These particular suburbs were still somewhat older parts of the metropolitan area and this table shows the distribution of blacks in some of the newer suburban communities. Limmer (11) The fourth of the physical pillars is the overall shift in the economic activity to the suburbs, which has been caused by all of the other pillars mentioned earlier, but in general, the economic activity has followed the source of the economic activity, which is the white middle class in the suburbs. Not only have the residents moved out to the suburbs, but commercial and industrial centers have also moved out, taking advantage of the open spaces accommodating the automobile. After the residents established suburban communities, some of them emerged as suburban centers, and companies that were originally in the inner city of Detroit moved out to the suburbs. Kmart for instance is located in Troy, which is roughly 25 miles from the CBD. Troy is also home to one of the largest shopping malls in the nation. Rows of businesses, banks, insurance companies, and hotels line Big Beaver Road, the main strip in Troy. The street is a beautiful tree lined, perfectly landscaped boulevard, full of imported automobiles cruising the General Motors world headquarters. It is obvious where the money from the areas companies are going. Twenty-five miles to the south in Detroit, many areas have been left completely empty and presently are just holes in the city landscape. Many of the incomes in the suburbs were much higher than that of the central city. Detroit for instance, had in 1983 a difference of over $11,000 in income between urban and suburban dwellers Zunz (99). The maps on the next page show how outlying communities have grown every ten years since 1940. As you can see, by 1980 the population of many Oakland and Macomb County suburbs were increasing in population the last fifty years. Today the metropolitan area covers roughly six counties including Wayne, Washtenaw, Lapeer, Livingston, Oakland, and Monroe. Huron, Jackson, and Genesee are also outlying counties containing numerous outposts. Limmer (12) Limmer (13) The final pillar, and the only one that I would identify as psychological is an overall change in the attitudes of Americans, and that this change in attitude was represented in the way that they settled in their homes. Before industrialization, the city was characterized as having the rich in the middle of the city and the poor living on the fringes. During the middle of the 1800’s, there was a wave of change in the way Americans looked at the home and an ideal American setting for the home evolved. In Jackson=s piece on suburbanization he identifies three figures who influenced this change in attitude that I am discussing. They are Catherine Beecher, who simply offered some ideal plans for the American dwelling, Andrew Jackson Downing who dealt with the art of landscape and from his ideas came the yard and garden, and Calvert Vaux who developed some ideals for American suburban architecture. Although I have identified only three, there were many more figures that helped reflect this overall change in the attitudes of Americans on where they wanted to live. Over time, Detroiters began to move out to the suburbs as the city became undesirable and today thoughts of the city being an undesirable place continue, with some suburban dwellers only going to the city for a special occasion. In 1990, it is believed that about 60% of Detroiters would like to move out of the city if they could. Detroit=s central city and the surrounding suburbs have evolved into two different places, simply symbolizing inequality and the power of the past of the mighty industrial city. As the two grew apart, some differences evolved in race, family stability, income, political preferences, education, public safety, business, and employment. The difference of race is the obvious one, with the central city having roughly 80% African-American today. The table on the next page explains four types of suburbs in Detroit Limmer (14) and shows there growth from 1970-1980. The four types are growing and contiguous to the city of Detroit, declining and contiguous, growing and noncontiguous, and declining and noncontiguous. Notice how types 3 & 4 and how 3 grew faster than 1 and how 4 declined slower than 2, which were the two groups consisting of suburbs connected to the city. In essence, the farther away from the city one goes, the faster it is increasing and the slower it is decreasing. Limmer (15) Family stability in the city has over the last fifty years been transformed and today urban families are extremely unstable, often consisting of single parent homes and multiple family homes, with many of that in the suburbs also. However, generally in the suburbs there is primarily homes owned by both parents, often living around others in the same social class. Income reflects off of this as well, as I mentioned earlier, income in the city of Detroit was $11,000 less than that of the suburbs. While I was in Detroit getting some information for this paper, I would come to the conclusion that there is a much larger difference today. Political differences include in Detroit include, naturally within the city of Detroit, a large democratic city, probably one of the largest democratic majority cities in the United States. On the other hand, locals call the well-off area to the north the Aconservative haven@ or ADisneyland@. Some areas of the suburbs of course have evolved into blue-collar suburbs and evolved into largely democratic counties such as Macomb to the northwest. Growing up in Detroit, I can tell you that the urban schools in Detroit make those in Waterloo look acceptable. The schools are barred, with sometimes no playground, and decaying infrastructure. When I moved out to the suburbs, I was behind my classmates and it took virtually two years to just catch up with the others in the class. I remember being amazed at my new school having 3 floors with an elevator and a swimming pool, and not enclosed by a wire fence that is barely standing. Public safety is another aspect that was of our interest when moving from Detroit. Public safety was a major concern in our neighborhood, with many times me not being allowed out after dark. In suburbs, many crime rates are lower in suburban areas, but judging by this past Tuesday in Colorado, often suburban crimes are much more devastating and reflect our aching moral Limmer (16) values. Employment within the city of Detroit is lowering, although it has lowered to roughly 25%. In the suburbs, unemployment is virtually nonexistent, with many of the suburban dwellers making more than enough money. Oakland county to the north is the second richest county in the country. When employment within the city grows, it doesn=t grow any more than five percent, and growth in suburbs in extraordinary, with more than enough jobs available for suburban dwellers. Retail sales within the suburbs have logically grown as the population of suburbs grew. Suburban malls were spreading rapidly in the community and are continually being constructed. In the last four years, the Detroit metropolitan area has constructed a mall slightly larger than the Mall of America and another one slightly smaller than the number 2 ranked mall in the nation in Riverside, California. The area now has two of the top four malls in the nation and other large retail centers are located in the metropolitan areas. However, most of these new shopping malls and major retail centers being located outside the city. Retail sales within the city is extremely low to that of the suburbs. In 1983, the large Hudson=s department store was closed in downtown Detroit, which was a structure in the same class as Macy=s and Marshall Field=s, symbolizing the shift in retail attention. Present growth within the metropolitan areas has mainly included growth in suburbs on the outer two fringes. Between 1970-1990, Rochester Hills doubled it=s population and Novi increased by one-third (Thomas 115). Detroit is still experiencing growth in the metropolitan area, unfortunately little of it is within the city limits. New buildings have been constructed along with a new stadium for the Detroit Tigers about to be built downtown. Limmer (17) I have gone through some history of the suburbanization process in the Detroit metropolitan area and have identified five pillars that influenced the change from a multiethnic society, to one of segregated clusters of people according to class. Were will we go from here? What does the future hold in store for American suburbs? Suburban development has reflected the change in the attitudes of Americans, therefore it is possible that our problems could=ve been prevented. The suburbs are becoming invaded by minority groups such as blacks and Mexicans and the minority population of the suburbs is increasing. It will be interesting to find out what happens when people of different races are forced to live near each other. Will we continue to live near people of the same social status? Future problems may be preventable, and hopefully what happened in Colorado is not going to be a suburban trend. The town of Littleton, Colorado, is supposed to be the type of neighborhood that Americans are striving for. The ideal community for raising a family, away from the dirty and grimy city limits. In the wide open spaces and by the parks, malls, and schools is where we want to live. In a quiet, fit for living atmosphere. Where will we go if our suburbs are infected with terrorism? I have gone through some history of the suburbanization process in the Detroit metropolitan area and have identified five pillars that influenced the change from a multiethnic society, to one of segregated clusters of people according to class. Were will we go from here?
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