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Revitalize Legacy Cities by Building on Assets

GOPC Executive Director co-authors Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities a Policy Brief for Lincoln Institute for Land Policy Lavea Brachman, executive director of GOPC and Alan Mallach, senior fellow at the Center for Community Progress and nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, argue for “strategic incrementalism” to revitalize cities like Youngstown, Cleveland, Baltimore and Flint in Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities.  This report has been released by the Lincoln Institute for Land Policy, a leading educational and research resource for key issues concerning land policy, including the use, regulation, and taxation of land.

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 such as downtown employment bases, stable neighborhoods, multimodal transportation networks, colleges and universities, local businesses, medical centers, historic buildings and areas, and arts, cultural, and entertainment facilities.

Brachman and Mallach considered eighteen cities, including six in Ohio: Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton and Youngstown.  The Brief also analyzed Baltimore, Camden, N.J., Newark, Philadelphia, Birmingham, Buffalo, Detroit, Flint, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Syracuse.

They identify the key elements of revitalization as:

  • Rebuilding the central core
  • Sustaining viable neighborhoods
  • Repurposing vacant land for new activities
  • Re-establishing the central economic role of the city
  • Using economic growth to increase community and resident well-being
  • Building stronger local governance and partnerships
  • Building stronger ties between legacy cities and their regions

In addition to urging a rethinking of state and federal policy as it relates to legacy cities, the authors recommend that cities seeking to rebuild and reinvent themselves should not think in terms of one large, high-impact solution – such as a sport stadium or convention center – but rather foster change through smaller steps in a variety of areas.

To read the report or for more information, please visit the Lincoln Institute for Land Policy.