Saving Chicago by Shrinking It

Is Chicago now too big for itself?

Meaning, is there too much infrastructure for areas of the city that have too little population and no hope of regaining that population?

Should decaying and depopulated areas be turned back to the earth, for either natural, green areas or for productive farm land?

This is what Detroit is doing.  The video gives a snapshot of what that entails. Areas of Detroit that have been abandoned, are being literally being returned to mother nature.  There are plenty of those areas, too.  I have spent a lot of time in Detroit over the years, and there are areas that look like movie sets for war shots.  Building after abandoned building, serving as headquarters for gangs and hangouts for crack addicts.  Around those buildings are houses that have fallen in on themselves, vacated decades ago, some.

Chicago has similar areas of blight.  Yet the CTA runs there, utilities maintain miles of equipment and employ hundreds of personnel to make sure those few surviving on a lone block or patch still get what they need and deserve.

Yet, Chicago’s net population is shrinking.  True, more people living in areas like the Loop and south Loop and along Lake Michigan than thirty years ago, but those areas are the desirable areas — waterfront, or close access to cultural activities or hubs of transportation.

Many areas further out will never come back, because there is little incentive for them to do so.  The building stock is  old, costly to maintain, and does not fit the lifestyle of today’s urban buyer.  And not everybody can rehab.

The upside will be the clearing of buildings and structures that serve as refuge for the deranged and addicted, lower overall costs to the city for maintenance of roads and bridges and sewers to badlands.  The downside is that the city will have to shrug its “big shoulders” and admit that it ain’t coming back to the way it was in the 1950’s, where growth was the mantra.

People will continue to leave Chicago so long as expenses continue to increase, and all indicators show that they will.  The city is broke financially in so many ways that to repair it across its many miles will put a burden on people that cannot be met.  The lake is nice to look at, but you do not necessarily have to live within view.  You can visit.

Chicago has to face facts: it is too big for its own good.

The question is, do you tear it down systematically with a plan, or do you let it further turn into a movie set that crosses “Mad Max” with “Life After People”?


Leave a comment
  • Detroit lost 25 percent of its population between the 2000 and 2010 censuses. Chicago lost 6 percent in that time. They don't have the same problem, they don't need the same answer.

  • In reply to johnpseudonym:

    You are very right, but the long term trend for Chicago, considering that the revenues will have to increase to support the various outstanding pension promises, city services and governmental systems, including schools, there will be an exodus from the city, especially as baby boomers retire and the jobs within the city continue their downtrend in pay and benefits.

    Better to start planning now, then to wait for the blight to spread further.

Leave a comment