Shrinking Cities Reading Series Part I: Design After Decline

April 21st, 2017

By Torey Hollingsworth, GOPC Manager of Research and Policy

Read the Introduction to GOPC’s Reading Series on Shrinking Cities

In his book Design After Decline, author Brent Ryan explores the historic role of urban and architectural design in combating (or accelerating) decline in cities and explores how good design can help shrinking cities boost quality of life for residents. Design After Decline argues that shrinking cities may not be able to reverse decline, but they can make cities more equitable for residents living in them.

Ryan begins by looking back at the legacy of urban renewal in the United States, and argues that the end of urban renewal was a double-edged sword for declining cities. It was positive in the sense that it ended the often brutal treatment of existing neighborhoods and residents, but negative because it meant the end of a comprehensive and optimistic government-backed vision for the future of urban communities. Although urban renewal tore apart neighborhoods in favor of massive concrete high rises, government planners (wrongfully, unfortunately) believed that these Modernist buildings could help transform neighborhoods for the better by virtue of the way they were designed.

In a reaction to the overreaches of Modernist urban renewal, the next generation of planners and designers abandoned innovative architectural design in favor of traditional, suburban-style development in what Ryan calls the “era of nonexperimentation”. In Detroit, the city became less dense as existing homes were torn down, leaving either vacant lots or new, low-density suburban style development in their place. Additionally, new development only occurred in a few relatively stable neighborhoods in the city, leaving other neighborhoods to decline. According to Ryan, little of this new development was driven by the interests of residents, which led to relatively limited success. In Philadelphia, however, redevelopment in declining neighborhoods also took a suburban form, but was driven largely by the interests of local residents instead of developers. In part due to its location, North Philadelphia is now contending with the challenge of gentrification instead of decline.

flint2    sidewalk

Ryan finds that neither the approach of urban renewal nor suburban-style development has had much positive impact on the trajectory of shrinking cities, especially as it relates to outcomes for low-income residents. Instead, Ryan sets forth a series of proposals for promoting “social urbanism” in shrinking cities. The idea of social urbanism comes from Medellin, Colombia, where dealing with social issues has been linked squarely to urban design and architecture. The city hopes to create “the most beautiful buildings in the poorest parts of the city,” a lofty goal that Ryan admits will be challenging to achieve in the U.S. Still, he suggests pushing for change even while accepting the constraints of the current system.

Ryan proposes five principles for social urbanist, shrinking-city design. The first is palliative planning, or the recognition that intervention cannot reverse decline, but can only improve quality of life for remaining residents. The second is interventionist policy, or the idea that cities should not hold back from taking risks through bold action. The third is democratic decision making, or an explicit focus on improving the lives of poor residents directly or indirectly. The fourth is projective design which “provides residents with a sense of achieved aspiration and conformance with social ideals” – in other words, housing is attractive and thoughtfully designed, but is still comfortable for the average family. The final principle is patchwork urbanism, or the understanding that development across the city will not be uniform and may create new urban forms over time. Through these urban design interventions, Ryan believes that shrinking cities can be more effective in creating equitable communities for residents.

This article is part of a blog series exploring books and articles written about shrinking cities, or communities that are losing population and dealing with housing vacancy and abandonment. For more information on this series, see the first post “Reading Series on Shrinking Cities”. These summaries are provided only for educational purposes and opinions expressed in these summaries do not necessarily reflect those of Greater Ohio Policy Center.

 

Introduction to GOPC’s Reading Series on Shrinking Cities

April 20th, 2017

By Torey Hollingsworth, GOPC Manager of Research and Policy

Many of GOPC’s followers are likely familiar with the concept of “shrinking cities” – communities that have experienced significant population decline and property abandonment over a period of decades. But what exactly this term means – and the feelings it can provoke – varies from person to person and community to community.

A few cities, including some in Ohio, have decided to embrace the concept of shrinking and are refocusing their planning efforts on how to “right-size” the city’s infrastructure for a smaller population. Others, also in Ohio, have rejected the idea and are implementing strategies to regrow their populations. Neither choice is necessarily right or wrong, but the question of how to deal with substantial population decline is one that most of Ohio’s legacy cities will have to answer. 

While “shrinking cities” as a concept is still relatively new in the United States, academics and urban planners have started to explore the question of how U.S. cities can manage population decline. As part of a literature study led by Dr. Mattijs Van Maasakkers at The Ohio State University, Torey Hollingsworth, GOPC’s Manager of Research & Policy, read a series of academic books and articles exploring the complex questions surrounding shrinking cities. Because the issues arising in shrinking cities align closely with GOPC’s mission of urban revitalization and sustainable growth, we will be launching a new blog series that summarizes some of the books and articles that were the most interesting or relevant in Ohio.

Portsmouth Historic Buildings 2

A key theme that runs throughout much of the literature on shrinking cities is a re-examination of the concept of growth. Can a city “grow” even if it is shrinking? Are there opportunities to create greater prosperity and opportunity for residents even in the face of population decline? These are important questions for people who work in or care about cities with declining populations. We hope that these summaries provoke even more questions and raise some ideas for paths forward.

We will be posting these summaries over a series of weeks. If there’s a book, article, or other work about shrinking cities that you’ve found useful or interesting and want to see covered – please let us know. 

This article is part of a blog series exploring books and articles written about shrinking cities, or communities that are losing population and dealing with housing vacancy and abandonment. For more information on this series, see the first post “Reading Series on Shrinking Cities”. These summaries are provided only for educational purposes and opinions expressed in these summaries do not necessarily reflect those of Greater Ohio Policy Center.

 

Community Development Block Grants Proposed for Elimination

April 10th, 2017

By John Collier, GOPC Intern

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) is one of the longest running programs of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Beginning in 1974, the program has provided communities with a source of flexible funds to aid in affordable housing and anti-poverty programs. The future of the program is unclear, as the Trump Administration, in its 2018 Budget Blueprint, is calling for the elimination of the CDBG program.

The flexibility of the CDBG program sets it apart from other grant programs provided by the federal government. With CDBG grants, state and local governments have a large amount of discretion in how the money is spent, and require less federal oversight.

CDBG funds are allocated in two separate funding streams.  One goes to states and the other directly to cities meeting certain requirements. Seventy percent of CDBG funds are allocated to what is referred to as the CDBG Entitlement Program. This program distributes funds directly to large cities and urban counties. Eligible communities receive CDBG funds determined by a formula based on population, poverty rates, and housing units. Since the funding is based on a formula and depends on a number of factors, CDBG funding can vary from year to year. 

The other 30 percent of CDBG funds are allocated to the State CDBG Program. States award the CDBG funds to smaller units of government for a wide array of purposes. The State CDBG Program allows non-entitlement cities (typically cities with populations fewer than 50,000) to benefit from this CDBG program. In Ohio, CDBG funds are administered by the Office of Community Development at ODSA. The Office of Community Development outlines four areas for CDBG funding in Ohio:

  1. Community Allocation – projects including public facilities, services, housing, and economic development
  2. Neighborhood Revitalization – targeted investment in low and moderate-income neighborhoods
  3. Downtown Revitalization – targeted investment in façade improvements, streetscapes, and public infrastructure
  4. Critical Infrastructure – high priority projects, typically single-component projects such as roads and drainage, which provide a community wide impact

In 2016, Ohio received $137,566,074 from HUD’s CDBG programs, $41,292,727 went to the State Program and $96,173,347 was distributed through the Entitlement Program. Forty-five communities in Ohio were eligible for the Entitlement Program. The breakdown of expenditures of the State Program funds is as follows:

  • 55% for Public Facilities and Improvements
  • 20% for Housing
  • 14% for General Administration/Planning
  • 7.5% for Economic Development
  • 2% for Public Services

According to the State of Ohio’s 2014 Accomplishment Report submitted to HUD, state program funds benefitted an estimated 885,599 individuals through the various projects funded by CDBGs. One of these state projects took place in Preble County, which assisted the Village of Lewisburg in a revitalization of its downtown district. The funds helped repair building facades, install decorative brick pavers, decorative planters, sidewalks, etc. In Miami County, state CDBG funds were utilized in a critical infrastructure project. CDBG funds allowed Bradford Village to replace 1,250 feet of water lines as well as to install 3 fire hydrants. The project benefited the entire village.

While total CDBG disbursement has decreased every year since 2002, it may now be completely eliminated. President Trump’s proposed 2018 Budget requests a $6.2 billion or 13.2 percent decrease in discretionary funding for HUD from 2017 levels and a complete elimination of the CDBG program. The blueprint claims the program “is not well-targeted to the poorest populations and has not demonstrated results” and aims to redistribute the funds to other activities.  The CDBG remains a valuable source of flexible funding for community development, and there is no obvious replacement source for cash-strapped communities.  Federal lawmakers need to carefully consider the merit of the program before making any changes.

For more detailed information on the CDBG program visit the HUD Exchange.

 

Former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy to Keynote GOPC 2017 Summit

January 19th, 2017

The Greater Policy Center (GOPC) is thrilled to announce that our 2017 Summit Keynote Speaker is Tom Murphy, Urban Land Institute Canizaro/Klingbeil Families Chair for Urban Development. Murphy served as Mayor of Pittsburgh from 1994 to 2005, and became a senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute in 2006.

While mayor of Pittsburgh, Murphy initiated a public-private partnership strategy that leveraged more than $4.5 billion in economic development in the city. He developed strategic partnerships to transform more than 1,000 acres of blighted, abandoned industrial properties into new commercial, residential, retail, and public uses, and oversaw the development of more than 25 miles of new riverfront trails and parks. Murphy also served eight terms in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and is the author of a number of reports that document how communities can leverage limited public resources for dramatic change.

Drawing on his extensive experience in urban revitalization, Murphy will discuss strategies and policies that successfully drive investment and long-lasting impact in weak-market cities of all sizes.

Learn More about Keynote Speaker Tom Murphy on our Bio Page

Tom Murphy Keynote headshot - permission to use
Former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy. Photo credit: Urban Land Institute 

Register today for GOPC’s 2017 Summit, Investing in Ohio’s Future: Maximizing Growth in our Cities and Regions to attend Murphy’s keynote address and learn from experts, policymakers, and local leaders as they present cutting-edge strategies, new tools, and policy solutions that lay the foundation for building prosperous cities, suburbs, exurbs, and regions in Ohio.The Summit will take place March 7th and 8th, 2017 at the Westin Hotel in downtown Columbus.We look forward to seeing you there!

Montage summit copy
Photos Courtesy of (from left): Don Angle Photography, Akron Stock Photos, GOPC (x3), Don Angle Photography

GOPC Updates Analysis on Challenges Facing Ohio’s Smaller Legacy Cities; Presents Findings at CMC

January 17th, 2017

Greater Ohio Policy Center has released an update to its 2016 report From Akron to Zanesville: How Are Ohio’s Small and Mid-Sized Legacy Cities Faring? The report examined the economic health of Ohio’s older industrial cities over the last 15 years and recommends proactive state policy solutions to strengthen these places. Newly released 2015 data confirms the general downward trajectory of many key economic indicators in these communities.

  • Ohio’s mid-sized legacy cities – Akron, Canton, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown – resemble their larger neighbors in many ways, including their challenges with entrenched poverty, low household incomes, and substantial rates of housing vacancy and abandonment. But the signs of recovery continuing to emerge in Cleveland and Cincinnati are not apparent in the economic health data of the mid-sized cities.
  • The proportion of adults working or looking for a job – a key indicator of economic health – declined significantly between 2000 and 2015 in small and mid-sized legacy cities.
  • Unemployment rates ticked down in all city types between 2014 and 2015. By 2015, Columbus and the state as a whole recovered their unemployment rates to 2009 levels. Mid-sized legacy cities also approached their unemployment levels at the end of the Recession. However, unemployment levels in all city types and the state as a whole continue to exceed 2000 levels.

GOPC’s research has confirmed that cities that are rebounding invest in place-based assets to revitalize.  To help Ohio’s smaller legacy cities stabilize and thrive, in 2017, GOPC will continue to lead advocacy on a slate of policies that support community redevelopment as routes to economic stability.

As part of GOPC’s recently launched smaller legacy city initiative, Executive Director, Alison D. Goebel, discussed the 2015 findings and GOPC’s policy recommendations at a Columbus Metropolitan Club forum, Big City Problems in Ohio’s Small Towns, which over 140 people attended earlier this week. During the panel, Goebel discussed ongoing challenges, such as economic and population decline, that Ohio’s smaller legacy cities face. To enable these cities to rebound, Goebel emphasized the importance of local civic capacity and the need to invest in both people and place-based assets.

GOPC was joined by Tara Britton, director of public policy and advocacy at the Center for Community Solutions and John Begala, retired executive director of the Center for Community Solutions, and the session was moderated by Karen Kasler of the Ohio Public Radio Statehouse News Bureau. If you missed the CMC forum, a Video of the whole event has been made available on CMC’s YouTube channel, which can be viewed online for free!

AG CMC cropped

GOPC’s Executive Director Alison Goebel (right) speaking at the Columbus Metropolitan Club about recent data on smaller legacy cities and strategies for regrowth.

We will be hosting a smaller legacy cities panel along with a whole array of exciting topics during our 2017 Summit: Investing in Ohio’s Future March 7th and 8th! We hope you join us; Register today!

 

Press Release: GOPC Updates Report on Challenges Facing Ohio’s Small and Mid-Sized Cities

January 10th, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 10, 2017

Contact: Michael McGovern, 937-245-1232, michael.d.mcgovern@gmail.com

 

Greater Ohio Policy Center Updates Report on Challenges Facing Ohio’s Small and Mid-sized Cities

Newly released 2015 data largely continues downward trends found in original report

Columbus, OH - Today, Greater Ohio Policy Center released an update to its report “From Akron to Zanesville: How Are Ohio’s Small and Mid-Sized Legacy Cities Faring?” The report examined the economic health of Ohio’s older industrial cities over the last 15 years and recommends proactive state policy solutions to strengthen these places. Newly released 2015 data confirms the general downward trajectory of many key economic indicators in these communities.

The update to the report is online here.

“Unfortunately, this new data generally shows many of the same downward trends in these communities as they continue to diverge from larger cities,” said GOPC Executive Director Alison Goebel. “Stronger trends in large cities like Columbus mask declines in many other parts of the state.”

“Ohio’s long-term economic health will require these issues be addressed. Recovery in these communities will depend on both creative local leadership and statewide policy change,” Goebel continued. 

The 20 small and mid-sized cities covered in this report all have populations of at least 20,000 people and are situated in larger metropolitan areas of less than one million people. Nearly one-third of Ohioans live in small or mid-sized cities or their surrounding regions and combined, just eight of these cities accounted for nearly 30 percent of the state’s GDP in 2014.

Updates to the report with the addition of the 2015 data include: 

  • The mid-sized legacy cities – Akron, Canton, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown – resemble their larger neighbors in many ways, including their challenges with entrenched poverty, low household  incomes, and substantial rates of housing vacancy and abandonment. But the signs of recovery continuing to emerge in Cleveland and Cincinnati are not apparent in the economic health data of the mid-sized cities. 
  • The proportion of adults working or looking for a job – a key indicator of economic health – declined significantly between 2000 and 2015 in small and mid-sized legacy cities.
  • Unemployment rates ticked down in all city types between 2014 and 2015. By 2015, Columbus and the state as a whole recovered their unemployment rates to 2009 levels. Mid-sized legacy cities also approached their unemployment levels at the end of the Recession. However, unemployment levels in all city types and the state as a whole continue to exceed 2000 levels. 

The original report is online here.

The Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization with a mission to champion revitalization and sustainable growth in Ohio.  GOPC uses education, research and outreach to develop and advance policies and practices that create revitalized communities, strengthen regional cooperation, and preserve Ohio’s open space and farmland.

To speak with one of GOPC’s policy experts about the report and city-specific data, please contact Michael McGovern at michael.d.mcgovern@gmail.com

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You’re Invited to See GOPC Speak at the Columbus Metropolitan Club on Ohio’s Smaller Legacy Cities!

January 9th, 2017

On Wednesday January 11th, Greater Ohio Policy Center Executive Director, Alison D. Goebel, is speaking at the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s (CMC) forum titled Big City Problems in Ohio’s Small Towns. Goebel will be discussing findings from GOPC’s “From Akron to Zanesville” report which details ongoing challenges, such as economic and population decline, that Ohio’s smaller legacy cities face.

The discussion of the report, originally published in June 2016, will include updated data from the recently released American Community Survey. This presentation at the CMC forum is part of GOPC’s recently launched smaller legacy city advocacy and resource initiative.

GOPC will be joined by Tara Britton, director of public policy and advocacy at the Center for Community Solutions and by John Begala, retired executive director of the Center for Community Solutions. The session will be moderated by Karen Kasler of the Ohio Public Radio Statehouse News Bureau.

Please join GOPC at the Boat House at Confluence Park for this forum that will go from noon to 1:15pm. Registration will close on Tuesday January 10th, so be sure to register today!

We look forward to seeing you at the forum!

CMC urban revitalization 4.20

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

12:00 PM – 1:15 PM

The Boat House at Confluence Park

679 W Spring St, Columbus, OH 43215

 

Positive Trends for Ohio’s Communities, but Recovery Remains Fragile

October 13th, 2016

GOPC Opinion Piece
October 12, 2016

The U.S. Census Bureau recently announced that household income increased and poverty decreased for most Americans in 2015. Census estimates show that these trends held true in most of Ohio as well. This is great news. Without a doubt, gains for Ohioans will help strengthen the economy in our state and local communities.

Yet these encouraging findings must not distract us from the continuing challenges facing Ohio, especially its small and mid-sized cities. Challenges like the shift away from manufacturing, population decline, and concentrated poverty existed long before the Recession but became even more difficult because of it. Creativity and strategic risk-taking by local leaders has resulted in rebounding downtowns, safer neighborhoods, and other reasons for optimism, but past and present Census data strongly suggest that recovery has been fragile and that another downturn could easily undo recent progress.

State and federal lawmakers should support policy solutions that are sensitive to the particular needs of small and mid-sized cities and their regions, which are still transitioning to a new post-industrial economy. Ohio’s long-term prosperity depends on making sure that all of its communities are able to thrive. While the news from the Census Bureau should be celebrated, there is more to be done to guarantee that these positive trends hold steady in the face of future economic dips.

Don’t Miss GOPC’s Upcoming Webinar on Ohio’s Small and Mid-Sized Legacy Cities

October 12th, 2016

In conjunction with the Ohio CDC Association, GOPC will co-host a Webinar on October 27th, 2016 from 10:00-11:30am that will examine how smaller legacy cities, from Akron to Zanesville, have fared over the last 15 years. GOPC will share best practices that smaller legacy cities throughout the Midwest and Northeast used to jumpstart revitalization and that community development practitioners can catalyze and implement.

GOPC recently presented on its latest work on small and mid-sized legacy cities at the Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference in Baltimore. To learn more about this, please check out our October 2016 Newsletter.

 

We hope you join us for the Webinar on October 27th – click here to sign up!

 

Ohio CDC

 

 

Remaking Cities After Abandonment Lecture Emphasizes Role of Community Efforts

September 16th, 2016

By Alex Highley, GOPC Project Associate

This past Wednesday, the Knowlton School of Architecture at the Ohio State University hosted a lecture by Margaret Dewar, a University of Michigan professor teaching at the Taubman College of Architecture. Dewar focuses her research on economic development, housing, and urban planning and she investigates the ways planners seek to ameliorate population and employment loss. During the lecture, Dewar outlined three main questions that she seeks to answer as part of her research:

  • What does a city become after abandonment?
  • What makes a difference in what a city becomes after abandonment?
  • What should a city become after abandonment?

The theme of Dewar’s research findings is that even in the cases of extraordinary shock marked by the collapse of government and a plunge in housing values, social groups and institutions make significant strides in community building. According to Dewar, this concept is important to understand given that prior research had only concluded that community efforts could produce smaller-scale change, such as inducing a decrease in crime.

Dewar lamented that during the mortgage foreclosure crisis in Detroit during the last decade, local leadership demonstrated little in the way of support for citizen resilience. Instead of imploring citizens to stay in their homes and rebuild their communities in the midst of a widespread crisis, the previous Detroit mayor tried to clear people out of their houses because city services were so insufficient. In Dewar’s view, these services should have been restructured so that people would have more incentive to remain and persevere in rebuilding their neighborhoods. For instance, citizens could have found creative ways to combine their garbage each week in order to have more efficient garbage collection services when cuts needed to be made.

Dewar highlighted the need for governments to prioritize community development corporations (CDCs) when seeking to rebuild neighborhoods that have suffered from recent abandonment. GOPC partners with CDC associations around Ohio and likewise recognizes the important work they contribute to community investment and redevelopment. Dewar also stressed the cost savings that cities can benefit through transitioning to green stormwater infrastructure. GOPC is constantly researching and discovering new ways for local governments to finance and modernize their sewer and water infrastructure.

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Detroit, Michigan. Source: Wikicommons