Improve Your Lot!


On Sunday, February 4th, Interboro hosted “Improve Your Lot!” a panel discussion at the brand new, totally awesome Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD). Participants will include Tobias Armborst, Daniel D’Oca and Georgeen Theodore (Interboro), Margaret Dewar (Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Michigan), Stephen Zacks (Associate Editor, Metropolis magazine), Ashley Atkinson (Project Manager, The Greening of Detroit), and others. The panel–the point of which was to bring together stakeholders and interested parties to discuss the challenges and opportunities involved in making small property expansions and improvements–was concurrent with the exhibition “Shrinking Cities,” which opened at MOCAD on Friday, February 2nd.

Despite the fact that the event took place during the Superbowl (a fact that occurred to no one until the day before), the event was well attended. Interboro was a bit apprehensive about organizing an event away from its home turf (who are we to tell Detroit what it should do with its land?) but I think we managed to avoid paternalism. After all, we presented our project about the “New Suburbanism,” which is as much an appreciation of what a few entrepreneurial Detroit homeowners are already doing (namely, buying up vacant lots next to their homes, creating larger, suburban-scale lots) as it is a proposal.

Click here for some pictures of the event.

Here’s a blurb that served as an abstract of the event:

Planners and Policy Analysts spend a lot time talking about what city’s should do with vacant land. However they spend much less time looking at what it is people are already doing with vacant land. To paraphrase the great Koolhaas, sometimes you have to know what the city is rather than what it was or should be. In this panel discussion, we will look at some creative uses of vacant land, and will ask whether there is a way for planners and policy-makers to˜take cues’ from the thousands of self-interested actors who are transforming vacant lots each and every day.


The New York Times Magazine’s “Year in Ideas” issue used the term “Creative Shrinkage” to characterize Youngstown, Ohio’s planning strategy, which calls for razing derelict buildings, cutting off sewage and electric service to fully abandoned tracts of the city, transforming vacant lots into pocket parks, and turning abandoned lots over to neighboring landowners and excusing back taxes on the land. We might say, sure but what about the creative actions of residents who are quietly, creatively improving their lot, by, for example, purchasing adjacent lots? Where are they in the discourse?