Investing in Detroit by the square inch

Boingboing Loveland Image Over a year ago, my friend Jerry Paffendorf showed up at a party with a picture of a ruler on his shirt and the words, "Iʼve got twelve inches in Detroit."

He explained his new project, Loveland, describing it as a series of micro-hoods made of inches that he would sell for $1 each. Some of the people stood around looking puzzled or skeptical about the prospect of a bicoastal urban techno-hipster moving into Detroit to sell tiny parcels -- and for what?

Iʼve worked extensively in blighted cities before, though, and the idea that we should avoid them because theyʼre suffering is, at best, no different than ignoring a sick friend. At worst itʼs contributing to the decay and neglect eroding many American cities. I became the first "inchvestor" in Loveland on the spot.


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Plymouth, the first Loveland micro-hood, shown above on the ground in Detroit. Inches are a powerful metaphor for units of measurement in a shrinking city. The project is a collaborative hybrid-reality experiment, with the idea being that the crisis faced by Detroit is so massive that an inch is a simple platform on which to build, the same way a seed can become a tree. I own 1000 inches in the first micro-hood, Plymouth. 588 people from around the world share space there.

The inches, however, started growing more quickly than anyone had anticipated. By the time I made my first trip to Detroit after becoming an inchvestor, two new properties had already become a part of the project. The first time I saw the Corktown houses, one destroyed by arson and the other shuttered with squatters living inside, I knew that it would only be a matter of time before the collective vision for the spaces became real.

Boingboing Imagination Station

The house on the left has since begun its transformation with massive volunteer effort and brainpower into an art space and the one on the right is becoming a media literacy center. The campus is now known as the Imagination Station.


Two artists have already installed works in the space. Marianne Burrows painted "Reclamation" on the charred walls and Catie Newell recently installed "Salvaged Landscape," a gorgeous piece that creates a new perspective from destruction.

The point of Loveland is to start somewhere, together, to connect with people, amplify the awesome and see where it goes. And so far, as the mayor of Loveland, I find the inchventure tremendous, for all its ostensible tiny-ness. Stay tuned for more as it develops.