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Posts Tagged ‘Alexia Fernández Campbell’

Back in 1987, Frank J. Popper and Deborah Popper argued that the former manufacturing hubs of the Midwest should accept that they were now shrinking and that new realities called for new approaches.

Youngstown, Ohio, never saw itself going as far as the Poppers envisioned (turning large swaths of the country back into “Buffalo Commons“), but it did adopt its own way of making lemonade out of lemons.

As Alexia Fernández Campbell writes at City Lab, “Youngstown, Ohio, created quite a stir a decade ago when it unveiled a novel plan for the city: It would stop trying to return to its glory days as a city of 170,000 people and instead embrace the idea that maybe smaller is better.

“The Youngstown 2010 plan reoriented the former steel-mill town toward providing services to the neighborhoods with the most people, converting abandoned land into green space, and supporting the burgeoning healthcare industry. In doing so, it hoped to keep the remaining 66,000 people from leaving. Since unveiling the plan in 2005, the city has lost only about 1,000 people.

“The Youngstown plan … put into motion aggressive action to fight urban decay and revitalize many parts of the city, says Ian Beniston, director of the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation … Part of his group’s job is to identify the healthiest neighborhoods and fix up the houses there, while demolishing abandoned ones and finding new uses for the land. …

“Ian Beniston: The way I view that is, planning within the realms of reality. It’s not that we don’t want to grow. Given the option to shrink or grow, anyone is going to pick grow. But we’re not operating in such a way as if we’re going to grow tomorrow or even growing now. I think it’s really a common-sense approach. …

“That impacts everything you do … Embracing shrinkage has to do with the fact that we had the infrastructure for 250,000 people and we currently have 65,000. …

“The 2010 plan was very basic, so there was the clean-and green-portions of it, improving quality of life, redefining the regional and local economy, but it didn’t get down to the property level of detail. [The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation] has taken the next step to developing detailed plans with a more market-and-data-driven strategy on the varying health of neighborhoods …

“In stable neighborhoods, for example, we really shouldn’t be demolishing housing. This is oversimplifying this, but if there is a vacant home there, it is likely something that should be rehabilitated, whereas the neighborhood that is already 70 percent vacant, the strategy is probably demolition and reusing the land for another purpose. For example, recently we started working with a company that grows hybrid poplar trees on these acres of vacant land, which are then harvested.” More at City Lab, here.

Here’s hoping efforts like these improve life for all residents in Youngstown. Pretty sure you have to have everyone on board to make it work.

Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters  

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