The City after Abandonment

The City after Abandonment

The City after Abandonment

The City after Abandonment

Synopsis

A number of U.S. cities, former manufacturing centers of the Northeast and Midwest, have suffered such dramatic losses in population and employment that urban experts have put them in a class by themselves, calling them "rustbelt cities," "shrinking cities," and more recently "legacy cities." This decline has led to property disinvestment, extensive demolition, and abandonment. While much policy and planning have focused on growth and redevelopment, little research has investigated the conditions of disinvested places and why some improvement efforts have greater impact than others.

The City After Abandonment brings together essays from top urban planning experts to focus on policy and planning issues related to three questions. What are cities becoming after abandonment? The rise of community gardens and artists' installations in Detroit and St. Louis reveal numerous unexamined impacts of population decline on the development of these cities. Why these outcomes? By analyzing post-hurricane policy in New Orleans, the acceptance of becoming a smaller city in Youngstown, Ohio, and targeted assistance to small areas of Baltimore, Cleveland, and Detroit, this book assesses how varied institutions and policies affect the process of change in cities where demand for property is very weak. What should abandoned areas of cities become? Assuming growth is not a choice, this book assesses widely cited formulas for addressing vacancy; analyzes the sustainability plans of Cleveland, Buffalo, Philadelphia, and Baltimore; suggests an urban design scheme for shrinking cities; and lays out ways policymakers and planners can approach the future through processes and ideas that differ from those in growing cities.

Excerpt

Since the early 1970s, observers of American cities have noted residential abandonment, concentrated in low-income, often minority-race or minorityethnic neighborhoods. Loss of neighborhoods reached shocking levels in places such as the South Bronx, where by the mid-1970s entire blocks of apartment buildings became uninhabitable and were demolished. By the early part of the twenty-first century, abandonment had become much more than an issue facing certain neighborhoods. Rather, vacant structures and vacant lots dominated the landscape of a large number of previously industrial cities of the Northeast and Midwest as well as other cities such as New Orleans. Neighborhoods reflected this disinvestment, but, in addition, large industrial sites sat vacant; former commercial corridors featured a few stores among boarded up buildings and vacant lots; downtown occupancy fell, and the number of downtown parking lots increased. By 2010, numerous cities had lost so much of their peak population and employment—the households and businesses for which the physical city had been built—that the extent of decline called for new perspectives. The challenge was no longer simply one of revitalizing neighborhoods but rather of restructuring the built city to adapt to new realities.

Population, households, and housing units declined substantially in many cities after World War II. A few examples illustrate this. Of the nation’s 200 largest cities in population in 2000, 21 lost more than one fourth of their residents between 1950 and 2008. Cities with more than 100,000 in population that had lost more than 10 percent of their peak population concentrated in the Midwest and Northeast but scattered across the South as well with a few in the West. Beauregard showed that nine of the nation’s fifty largest cities lost population in every decade between 1950 and 2000: Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. One other—New Orleans—lost population every decade after 1960. Four-fifths of the large cities that experienced loss between . . .

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