DETROIT — When Marja M. Winters was studying urban planning in graduate school, she learned the art and science of helping cities grow.
Now Ms. Winters, a native of Detroit and the deputy director of the city’s planning and development department, finds herself in an utterly unexpected role, one that no school would have thought to prepare her for: she is sorting out how to help her hometown shrink, by working through difficult decisions that will determine which neighborhoods can be saved and which cannot.
Actually carrying out such an effort, particularly in a city as vast as Detroit, is like solving a complicated set of interwoven puzzles, as Ms. Winters has discovered over many long days and some nights poring over thousands of pages of maps and statistics in her 23rd-floor downtown office.
How to reconfigure roads, bus lines, police districts? How to encourage people — there is no power of eminent domain to force them — to move out of the worst neighborhoods and into better ones?