Margaret Dewar, Professor, Urban & Regional Planning Program
My research focuses on American cities that have lost a
large share of their peak population and employment and now face major issues
with property disinvestment. These
cities include most of the past manufacturing centers of the Midwest and many
of those in the Northeast. Cities in the
South that have lost their past industrial base have also experienced
considerable decline. I am fascinated by
what such cities become and aim to contribute to strengthening urban planning’s
capacity to improve the conditions for people who live and work in them. The focus of urban planning has traditionally
been to revitalize, rebuild, and redevelop disinvested areas, but such renewal
is no longer possible in many areas of these cities. This means that urban planners need to
reframe the way they work in such places. Further, I want to know how research
on such cities can change the questions we ask and the answers we discover in
many areas of urban studies. Detroit is
the premier example of a city that has experienced extreme decline. Now may be the time for a Detroit School of
Urban Studies to indicate new areas of investigation and theoretical
development based on understanding gained from cities that have experienced
substantial deindustrialization and depopulation.
I practice urban planning with advanced master’s students in classes where we develop plans that advance the agendas of
residents and community-based organizations in strengthening
neighborhoods. Our work in partnership
with many people in Detroit and Flint has informed my understanding of how
planners can do better in managing change in disinvested places.
- Margaret Dewar, Matthew Weber, Eric Seymour, Meagan Elliott, and Patrick Cooper-McCann, "Learning from Detroit: How Research on a Declining City Enriches Urban Studies," in Michael Peter Smith and L. Owen Kirkpatrick (eds.), Reinventing Detroit (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2015).
- Margaret Dewar, "Reuse of Abandoned Property in Detroit and Flint: Impacts of Different Types of Sales," Journal of Planning Education and Research 35(3), 2015: 347-368.
- Margaret Dewar and Robert Linn, "Remaking Brightmoor," in June Manning Thomas and Henco Bekkering (eds.), Mapping Detroit (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2015).
- Margaret Dewar, Eric Seymour, and Oana Druță, "Disinvesting in the City: The Role of Tax Foreclosure in Detroit," Urban Affairs Review 51(5), 2015: 587-615.
- Margaret Dewar, "Paying Employers to Hire Local Workers in Distressed Places," Economic Development Quarterly 27(4), 2013: 284-300.
- Margaret Dewar and June Manning Thomas, The City After Abandonment (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013).
- Margaret Dewar, "What Helps or Hinders Nonprofit Developers in Reusing Vacant, Abandoned, and Contaminated Property?" in Margaret Dewar and June Manning Thomas, eds., The City After Abandonment (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013).
- Margaret Dewar, Christina Kelly, and Hunter Morrison, "Planning for Better, Smaller Places after Population Loss: Lessons from Youngstown and Flint," in Margaret Dewar and June Manning Thomas, eds., The City After Abandonment (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013).
- Katrin Groβmann, Robert Beauregard, Margaret Dewar, and Annegret Haase, "European and U.S. Perspectives on Shrinking Cities," Urban Research and Practice 5(3), 2012: 360-363.
- Margaret Dewar and Matthew Weber, "City Abandonment," in Rachel Weber and Randall Crane, eds., Oxford Handbook of Urban Planning (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).
- Hunter Morrison and Margaret Dewar, "Planning in America's Legacy Cities: Toward Better, Smaller Communities After Decline," in Alan Mallach, ed., Rebuilding America's Legacy Cities: New Directions for the Industrial Heartland (New York: American Assembly, 2012).
- Margaret Dewar, "CDC Partnerships," in Joseph Schilling and Alan Mallach, Cities in Transition: A Guide for Practicing Planners, Planning Advisory Service Report Number 568 (Chicago: American Planning Association, 2012).
Current Research Projects
My research aims to contribute to residents' efforts and to policy decisions, in consultation with those involved, as well as to bodies of knowledge in urban planning.
- Saving Detroit’s neighborhoods from mortgage
foreclosures. With Lan Deng, June
Manning Thomas, and Ph.D. student Eric Seymour, I am investigating how
residents and community-based organizations have worked to prevent disinvestment
in Detroit’s middle-class neighborhoods.
Between 2006 and 2013, more than one-third of the houses in these
neighborhoods experienced mortgage foreclosures, and housing values fell more
than 80 percent. Much of the research on
community capacity treats connections to institutions and governmental entities
outside the neighborhood as a black box.
We focus on how such connections helped or hindered neighborhood
- Transitioning residential land use to green storm water
infrastructure. I am part of a large
team led by Joan Nassauer that is working with the Detroit Land Bank and the
Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to install and study green infrastructure
in Detroit. With Alicia Alvarez and
Ph.D. student Matthew Weber, I am studying the governance of this land use
transition. Scholars know how land use
change occurs when strong demand for property exists. In this project, we aim to learn how land use
transition takes place when demand is very weak, when the market-determined highest
and best use may well be a neglected vacant lot.
very vacant neighborhoods. Scholars
rarely look closely at places that are experiencing extensive
disinvestment. Those who do tend to
focus on the ruins of abandoned structures.
Some policy makers have suggested clearing remaining residents out of such
areas so that the city government can cut all services. In research with Eric Dueweke and in connection
with another research project undertaken by Joan Nassauer and her students, I
am looking closely at how residents have remade two very vacant sections of Detroit. We are discovering the considerable
transformations they have brought about despite their difficult