Thursday, February 26, 2009

The future of cities is ... well … ahead of us …

Cleveland   It’s an old joke that making predictions is difficult, especially about the future.  In response to posts earlier this week, Catherine LaCroix at Case Western Reserve directs us to a website (with references to a report and book) about the shrinking of industrial cities such as Cleveland.  The depopulation of cities may not be thoroughly depressing –- it opens up fascinating opportunities for environmental projects, which are especially promising in an age of low property values, creative eminent domain, and a thawing public opposition to innovative urban land uses, such as the growing of food on an one-acre city lot or raising a flock of chickens for backyard urban eggs.  (See this Cleveland chicken story.)         
  The future of “dying” cities may surprise us, as does today the reports of the surprisingly successful economic condition of New Orleans three years after Katina –- in large part (skeptics note) because of the economic stimulus of shovel projects.  Urban farms might end up as a signature of Cleveland as much as did closing steel mills or the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame did in previous decades.  And it may assuage somewhat the concern that suburban sprawl is gobbling up valuable farmland –- a concern that has always struck me as overstated.  I’m of the age that reminds me of the passage from the old Talking Heads song:  “There was a shopping mall. Now it's all covered with flowers ... Once there were parking lots. Now it's a peaceful oasis” … 

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