Friday, April 29, 2011

Mallach on CDCs and Shrinking Cities

Alan Mallach (Brookings) has published Where Do We Fit In? CDCs and the Emerging Shrinking City Movement in the Spring 2011 issue of Shelterforce. In this short piece, Alan looks at the efforts of community development corporations (CDCs) to contend with the problems faced by cities such as Cleveland, Youngstown and Detroit. He goes on to discuss the fundamental problem of how to craft a local development mission in a market that is clearly shrinking. Unlike Baltimore, a post-industrial city in a growing region, the cities Mallach highlights are located in parts of the country that continue to lose population. We here at Land Use Prof have blogged about the release of Detroit's 2010 census numbers and a recent NY Times discussion of the shrinking-cities quandary. With this Shelterforce article, Alan Mallach brings his formidable analysis and decades of community development experience to bear on this critical issue for American cities in the 21st century.

Jim K.

April 29, 2011 in Community Economic Development, Detroit, Redevelopment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

NYT Dialogue on Shrinking Cities

The latest census figures from Detroit (Chad's hometown blogged about here and here) have inspired the New York Times to solicit opinions from several urban planning experts about the way forward for post-industrial cities confronted with large-scale property abandonment.  Jennifer Bradley (Brookings-MPP) and Terry Schwarz (Kent State's Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative) each offer shrinking city visions that challenge the idea that all planning must be for demographic expansion and economic growth.  Their greening strategies, including attention to urban agriculture and ecosystems, contemplate a 'new normal' for cities that may, in some ways, be better than historical peak periods.

Richard Florida (Toronto-Business) and Sam Staley urge beleaguered areas to pursue a focused (and apparently unsubsidized) effort to retain and attract residents in a mobile society.  Still others, such as Toni Griffin (Harvard-Planning), see Detroit and similar cities as merely the most egregiously wounded casualties of unsustainable sprawl-promoting policies that must be changed throughout the U.S.  These brief articles and even the comment board are all worth checking out. (Hat Tip to Nicole Garnett (Notre Dame) and her student, Sean Ashburn)

I would also encourage those interested in working with the land use challenges faced by undercrowded, post-industrial cities to check out The Center for Community Progress (f/k/a National Vacant Properties Campaign).  Over the years, I have had the chance to participate in conferences and technical assistance efforts that have brought urban development practitioners together with experts such as Jennifer Bradley, Terry Schwarz, Kermit Lind (Cleveland State), Joe Schilling (Va. Tech-Metropolitan Inst.)  and CCP's co-founder, Frank Alexander (Emory).

Jim K.

March 30, 2011 in Community Design, Community Economic Development, Comprehensive Plans, Crime, Density, Detroit, Development, Economic Development, Planning, Redevelopment, Smart Growth, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Yes, there are Grocery Stores in Detroit

The Urbanophile shares a story by James Griffioen called Yes, there are Grocery Stores in Detroit.  Griffioen is responding to the oft-repeated assertion that the city of Detroit--still the 11th largest city in America with over 800,000 people--does not have any major national chain grocery stores in the city.  This asserted fact is often invoked to illustrate arguments about urban decline, problematic land use arrangements, Detroit's particularly sad problems, and the current focus on the link between poverty and health and obesity in urban areas.  Griffioen says that the narrative of grocery-less Detroit is . . . a canard (he uses a more pungent term involving bovine scatology).

In the time I’ve lived in Detroit, I’ve come to realize that the most sensational claims and the public perception they create often have little to do with the day-to-day reality of being a Detroiter. This is a complicated city, and even in the most sincere efforts to cull some truth from it, visiting journalists often end up spreading damaging falsehoods.

One of the most annoying is that Detroit has no grocery stores. . . .

What surprises most people who've heard that there are no grocery stores in Detroit is that there are actually independent stores far more appealing than any chain. One of the nicest grocery stores in Detroit is Honeybee La Colmena (I wrote an extensive profile about the store here). Honeybee is owned and operated by individuals who grew up and still live in the neighborhood where the store is located and they have created dozens of jobs for their neighbors. Honeybee has some of the best produce and prepared foods in the metro area, and it is actually a Detroit supermarket where people from the suburbs come into the city to shop.

Griffioen acknowledges that there are indeed parts of Detroit that are underserved by the market, but it is important to note that cities are often much more complex than any attempt to reduce them to a generalized observation or metaphor.

Matt Festa

January 28, 2011 in Agriculture, Detroit, Food, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

America's Ten Dead Cities

From time to time here on the land use prof blog we post a link to one of the ubiquitous "top" lists that various media outlets like to publish about America's top cities for business, living, etc.  I see a lot of these because a trend in recent years has been for Texas cities to dominate these lists, at least when they are based on economics.  Here's a related, but more depressing list: America's Ten Dead Citiesfrom the site 24/7 Wall Street.  The cities:  

(1) Buffalo; (2) Flint; (3) Hartford; (4) Cleveland; (5) New Orleans; (6) Detroit; (7) Albany; (8) Atlantic City; (9) Allentown; (10) Galveston.

Read the story to get a sense of the narrative arcs of these once-prosperous cities fallen on harder times. Mostly, it won't surpise you.  Other than the two Gulf Coast cities on the list (both of which (#5 & 10) I still visit regularly), they are mostly post-industrial Northeast or Great Lakes cities (including my birthplace (#8), my hometown (#7), and another place I lived as an adult (#4)).  Of course, Billy Joel was already lamenting the decline of #9 back in 1982 (come to think of it, Bruce Springsteen told a pretty dark tale about #8 before that).  It's interesting for us not only because of how much city economies have driven land use planning, but also because we need to consider the historical trajectory of these cities when considering policies to shape cities going forward.  

Matt Festa

August 26, 2010 in Detroit, Downtown, Economic Development, History, Local Government, New York, Texas | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hollander on Shrinking Cities

Justin Hollander (Tufts--Planning) has posted Moving Toward a Shrinking Cities Metric: Analyzing Land Use Changes Associated with Depopulation in Flint, Michigan, in Cityscape, Vol. 12, No. 1, 2010 .  The abstract:

Cities around the globe have experienced depopulation or population shrinkage at an acute level in the last half century. Conventional community development and planning responses have looked to reverse the process of depopulation almost universally, with little attention paid to how neighborhoods physically change when they lose population. This article presents an approach to study the physical changes of depopulating neighborhoods in a novel way. The approach considers how population decline creates different physical impacts (more or less housing abandonment, for example) across different neighborhoods. Data presented from a detailed case study of Flint, Michigan, illustrate that population decline can be more painful in some neighborhoods than in others, suggesting that this article’s proposed approach may be useful in implementing smart decline.


Matt Festa

May 11, 2010 in Detroit, Housing, HUD, Scholarship, Smart Growth, Sprawl | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)