Pontiac: The ‘Platform City’ That Never Was

Pontiac is the seat of Michigan’s wealthiest county, but much of downtown is vacant as the city’s population has fallen steadily from its 1970 peak of 85,000. No, don’t blame it on the auto industry. The decline began in 1960 when county offices moved to an undeveloped field on the city’s fringe, and was hastened over the next few years as neighborhoods were razed to create Wide Track Drive (now the Woodward Loop), a ring road which allowed two intersecting highways to bypass the city center altogether.

To cap it all off—pun intended—planners C. Don Davidson and Bruno Leon envisioned demolishing much of downtown to create an elevated ‘platform city’ that would span the downtown street grid, reaching from one parking structure to the next.

This never happened, of course. By the time construction began in 1980, much of the ‘Pontiac Plan’ had already been forgotten. All we were left with was a parking garage.

See my article in Mode Shift for more.

The Ice Tree is Back!

As reported in Detroit Moxie, Detroit’s coolest attractive nuisance has returned. After a warmer-than-usual December and early January, winter temperatures have finally arrived in the city, giving us cause to be optimistic regarding the remainder of the ice tree season.  Over the past week kids and adults alike have been seen having a great time climbing on, skating around, spelunking within pine-scented grottos of, and generally admiring and being inspired by our great city’s grandest, coldest, slipperiest, jaggedest, and probably most dangerous public art installation.

The 2012 Ice Tree. Photo: Roger J. Frank, Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The winter of 2011 was a very sad time on Belle Isle, when the tipi-like structure of discarded tree parts was erected, but the water supply to the installation was never turned on. According to Belle Isle Manager Keith Flournoy, cold weather froze and damaged the pipes before the structure could be completed. “We had no idea how beloved that tree was until last year, when it was gone,” Mr. Flournoy said in an interview, citing numerous telephone inquires park staff received from ice tree admirers. Continue reading

Extreme Profiling via Cellphone Records

Banks Determine Creditworthiness From Calling and Location Data

The Cambridge, Massachusetts firm Cignifi is making yet another small step on behalf of the practice of demographic profiling. Marketed towards banks in developing nations where a prevalence of cash transactions challenges conventional means of assessing credit risk, Cignifi’s innovative modeling software studies the time of day, duration, and even location of a cellphone user’s calls to to determine, with supposedly remarkable accuracy, the degree of risk involved in extending a line of credit.

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