Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

School closings and negative impact on neighborhoods

I recognize the need to close schools in various cities in the face of ongoing enrollment declines.  At the same time, you need to balance the need to anchor neighborhoods with civic assets that aid in community building and stabilization.

Neighborhood elementary schools can be the most fundamental element of such efforts as I have written about here: "Rethinking community planning around maintaining neighborhood civic assets and anchors."

... as the example provided by Neighborhood Centers Inc. in Greater Houston, although there are thousands of such examples of individual schools or schools that are integrated into a multi-purpose neighborhood-serving center (examples come to mind from Austin, Texas; Toronto; and San Diego, among others).

Yesterday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported on school closings there, "What Happens To A Neighborhood After CPS Closes Its School," and quoted a University of Illinois professor, David Perry, on the property value declines often associated with school closings.  From the article:

This is East Garfield Park, which six years ago BusinessWeek magazine touted as Chicago’s “most up and coming neighborhood.” Long whispered as prime development territory for its easy access to the Loop and amenities like the Garfield Park Conservatory, the neighborhood has been hit especially hard by Chicago Public Schools’ elementary closings.

Four elementary buildings are shuttering in East Garfield Park, despite modest growth in the school-age population. It’s a move experts predict will depress property values in a neighborhood struggling to gain an economic foothold. Some residents fear the blow will land disproportionately on low-income families in the neighborhood’s black community. ...

“The neighborhood schools are really the focal point of the land planning,” says Alderman Bob Fioretti, 2nd Ward, as he stood outside Dodge on Thursday afternoon. “But when this is boarded up, when this becomes an eyesore, when CPS doesn’t maintain the grounds for it, and nobody’s out there guarding it and all the items get stripped inside — who wants to live around an eyesore that the city controls?”

In the area around a closing school, home prices typically decline between 9 to 11 percent, says one academic researcher. “In real estate terms, there is a clear and unimpeachable impact,” said David Perry, a professor of urban planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “It’s sort of like a city tearing down its bridges and roads.”

This document (I am not sure of the original source) provides some citations for this finding, although the studies are old.

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