Thursday, April 30, 2009

Shrinky Dinks

There was a really short but gripping article in the New York Times about how to manage declining cities.  From the intro:

Dozens of proposals have been floated over the years to slow [Flint, Michigan’s] endless decline. Now another idea is gaining support: speed it up. Instead of waiting for houses to become abandoned and then pulling them down, local leaders are talking about demolishing entire blocks and even whole neighborhoods. The population would be condensed into a few viable areas. So would stores and services. A city built to manufacture cars would be returned in large measure to the forest primeval.

(For other commentary see here and here.) Although the topic of population decline merits more attention,  it seems like there are lots of problems with Flint's proposal.  How exactly will local governments figure out what areas are “viable?” Does this do anything to bring back jobs to the Rust Belt?  How does block-wide demolition address the larger regional morass?  Does this destroy cultural heritage?  Is destruction really better than focused rehabilitation?   Won't this kind of thing just happen naturally, without government involvement?  Would demolition money be better spent on cops and schools? 

Steve Clowney

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