Smaller Legacy Cities

Greater Ohio Policy Center is focused on strategies for revitalization in smaller legacy cities in Ohio and beyond. These cities, which have long industrial histories, population loss, and current populations of 250,000 to 30,000, are the backbone of Ohio. Nearly a third of the state’s population lives within their regions, and over a third of the state’s GDP is produced by their residents and businesses. Despite their importance, these places have fallen on difficult times as long-term changes in the economy and the Great Recession hit smaller legacy cities particularly hard.

While larger legacy cities have experienced similar kinds of challenges, they have access to a set of unique assets to boost revitalization efforts that are not always available in smaller places. GOPC is conducting ongoing research to document the challenges of these important communities in Ohio and throughout the region. Even more importantly, GOPC is gathering best practices for smaller city revitalization and, along with stakeholders from around the state, is building a new agenda for the future of these communities.
 

GOPC's New Shrinking Cities Reading Series - June 2017

This series of blog posts summarizes academic literature about “shrinking cities” – cities that have experienced significant population declines resulting in property vacancy and abandonment. Nearly all smaller legacy cities in Ohio have to deal with the consequences of population loss, and this blog series aims to raise some ideas for paths forward and provoke more questions about the connections between growth and opportunity.


Ohio's Smaller Legacy Cities Map


 

Upcoming Research

Small and medium sized legacy cities around the country face challenges that are unique to their size and regional location, making best practices learned from larger cities imperfect suggestions. To address this gap in solutions for smaller legacy cities, GOPC researched and developed a report with the support of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy on the strategies that can help small and medium sized legacy cities find and leverage a competitive edge to become thriving, sustainable cities.

“Revitalizing America’s Small and Medium Sized Legacy Cities” – To be published Summer 2017

Small and medium sized legacy cities around the country face challenges that are unique to their size and regional location, making best practices learned from larger cities imperfect suggestions. To address this gap in solutions for smaller legacy cities, GOPC researched and developed a report with the support of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy on the strategies that can help small and medium sized legacy cities find and leverage a competitive edge to become thriving, sustainable cities.

 

GOPC's Research and Resources on Smaller Legacy Cities
 

Update on Ohio's Smaller Legacy Cities - January 2017

This brief update to the “From Akron to Zanesville” report looks at trends in smaller legacy cities in Ohio into 2015. 

“From Akron to Zanesville: How Are Ohio’s Legacy Cities Faring?” (June 2016)

This report analyzes the economic health and trajectory of Ohio’s twenty small and mid-sized legacy cities from 2000 to 2014. These cities and their regions have struggled with decades of population loss and declines in their core manufacturing industries—just like their larger legacy city peers, Cleveland and Cincinnati. But the impact of the Great Recession further stalled recovery in smaller cities, as conditions in these cities continue to decline and impact their communities and surrounding areas.

Positive Trends for Ohio’s Communities, but Recovery Remains Fragile (October 2016)

This GOPC opinion piece highlights the challenges that smaller legacy cities continue to face in Ohio in spite of the promising economic trends occurring throughout the state.

The State of Ohio’s Smaller Legacy Cities: Webinar Slides (November 2016)

This webinar explores the findings of the “From Akron to Zanesville” report and puts Ohio’s cities into a regional context. GOPC shared best practices that smaller legacy cities throughout the Midwest and Northeast used to jumpstart revitalization.

"Revitalizing America’s Small and Medium-Sized Legacy Cities" (June 2016)

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston published a Greater Ohio Policy Center article on the revitalization of America’s small- and medium-sized legacy cities. Beginning on page 7 of its Summer 2016 Communities and Banking magazine, the article describes several promising resilience strategies for legacy cities, based on GOPC’s data analysis.

“Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities” (May 2013)

In an analysis of 18 cities facing manufacturing decline and population loss, Mallach and Brachman advocate for step-by-step “strategic incrementalism” to promote economic development, rather than the silver-bullet approach of signature architecture, sports facilities, or other megaprojects. Their analysis suggests that these legacy cities can build new economic engines and draw new populations by leveraging longstanding assets. Although this report is not specific to smaller legacy cities, it includes many of Ohio’s smaller legacy cities in its analysis.

“Restoring Prosperity: Transforming Ohio’s Communities for the Next Economy” (February 2010)

The smaller legacy city work builds on the ideas set forth in GOPC’s seminal platform for remaking Ohio’s communities and economy to be competitive in the 21st Century.

 

GOPC's Assistance and Assessment Projects in Smaller Legacy Cities

Build in Akron: Opportunities for Residential Reinvestment in Akron's Neighborhoods (February 2017)

The Build in Akron report, produced with the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, finds that many of Akron’s neighborhoods can already support additional market-rate housing and many more could attract new development through strategic interventions that have been employed successfully in other cities in Ohio.

Build in Akron features a market analysis by DiSalvo Development Advisors that categorizes Akron’s neighborhoods by the kinds of interventions necessary to bolster the housing market. The analysis categorizes neighborhoods into four groups, which are displayed on an interactive map available here. The report found that all neighborhood types have opportunities for regrowth but are at different stages in the market-building process.

“62.4 Report: Profile on Urban Health and Competitiveness in Akron, Ohio” (February 2016)

Like many cities in Ohio, Akron has weathered a decades-long decline in its traditional economic base that has required it to reimagine its role in the twenty-first century economy. Noted by national experts to have maintained a competitive edge over similar legacy cities through much of this decline, this report examines how the city’s recent trajectory compares to similar mid-sized, post-industrial cities.

The report, titled “62.4 Report" in reference to the city’s square mileage, finds that Akron did not keep pace with peer cities in the Midwest and Northeast. Akron’s performance on indicators of urban health and competitiveness was compared to five similarly situated cities: Erie, Pennsylvania, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Hamilton, Ohio, Syracuse, New York, and Worcester, Massachusetts. Still, although Akron faces serious economic and demographic challenges, the city is well-positioned to confront them.

"Assessing Revitalization Strategies in Dayton" (January 2014)

GOPC assessed the City of Dayton’s neighborhood stabilization and revitalization strategies and provided recommendations for future opportunities. In particular, GOPC conducted a review and gap analysis to help the city of Dayton continue to make effective progress in turning around its vacant and abandoned property crisis. GOPC also provided assistance to the city as it piloted new innovative tools and strategies for neighborhood stabilization and revitalization.

"Developing a Youngstown Center City Organization" (2012, 2014-2016)

GOPC has been working with local partners to identify the need and develop a process for creating a Youngstown Center City Organization that will catalyze and coordinate economic development and community investment in Youngstown’s Central Business District and adjacent areas.