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.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Shrinking cities

Because I think that the dynamics of urban decline and the possibilities for revitalization are more nuanced, websites like Detroit's "100" Abandoned Houses (the city has thousands of photos of abandoned houses) demonstrate the crisis felt by many cities, the "solution" offered by Dan Kildee, treasurer of Genessee County north of Detroit, as recounted in the story, "US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive," from the Telegraph (UK), is too harsh and can't be applied categorically. From the article:

Mr Kildee said he will concentrate on 50 cities, identified in a recent study by the Brookings Institution, an influential Washington think-tank, as potentially needing to shrink substantially to cope with their declining fortunes.

Most are former industrial cities in the "rust belt" of America's Mid-West and North East. They include Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Memphis.

In Detroit, shattered by the woes of the US car industry, there are already plans to split it into a collection of small urban centres separated from each other by countryside.

"The real question is not whether these cities shrink – we're all shrinking – but whether we let it happen in a destructive or sustainable way," said Mr Kildee. "Decline is a fact of life in Flint. Resisting it is like resisting gravity."

Cities on the coasts such as Baltimore and Philadelphia have greater opportunities than cities in the interior. But cities that have relied on manufacturing will have to shrink somehow. But the real issue is continued outmigration and expansion and greater utilization of land per capita in metropolitan areas. In short, metropolitan regions continue to expand significantly, at rates greater than that generated by population growth.

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