Shrinking Cites - what's the cure?
Roberta Brandes Gratz, author of some excellent books on cities, has a provocative recent piece over at the Atlantic, called, "What Cities Looking to Shrink can Learn from New Orleans." This particular topic is in focus because a number of cities, notably Detroit, have been grappling in recent years with how to best deal with sharply declining populations and dismal prospects for the future. This is a fascinating, and controversy-laden topic. When I volunteered with a group of New Urbanists in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, we discussed the idea at length. A cornerstone of the planning efforts was to essentially "regroup" into more defensible neighborhoods. It's a nearly impossible task to pull off logistically, but makes eminent sense from a planning standpoint - build some successes, best utilize limited dollars and infrastructure, and create safe areas.
Gratz makes some interesting arguments in her piece, though I'm not sure they're mutually exclusive from the efforts planned in other places. And, it's always debatable how far you can get using New York City as an example to other parts of the country - it's place in America is unique, and indeed the world. New Orleans, Detroit, Flint, Cleveland - these cities do not have the dynamic economy that New York has, nor the infrastructure (especially of transit). And yet, there's no reason these places can't regroup at a smaller scale, and in many ways look back to their origins as the article suggests. Of course, when the lower 9th and other older neighborhoods were established to begin with, they often weren't competing with suburbia - a whole different animal...
The debate rages on . Your thoughts?
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