A new working paper written by researcher Alan Mallach and released by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy explores how state governments can support lasting and inclusive urban revitalization.
Last week, GOPC participated in a Roundtable on Leveraging Local Assets in Small and Medium Sized Cities, sponsored by the Center for Community Progress. This small Roundtable brought together leaders from a number of sectors who work in Flint, Dayton, Youngstown, and Syracuse. Through a neighborhood tour, presentations, and conversations over meals, GOPC learned about cutting-edge strategies that these medium sized legacy cities implement to accelerate their revitalization and return to vibrancy. At the beginning of the Roundtable, GOPC presented preliminary research findings generated from analysis of current conditions and trends of a number of small and medium-sized cities in the Midwest and Northeast. GOPC also described promising and innovative urban stabilization and revitalization strategies has found through collaborative research with CCP Senior Fellow Alan Mallach. One of the most valuable components of the Roundtable was learning firsthand of incredible work underway in these four representative cities.
Flint has recently completed an amazing master plan, Imagine Flint, which includes 13 different zoning districts that acknowledge the reality of current land use and prepare the city to maximize its assets for the future. The plan is sensitive to the current market and responds to what residents want for the future. For example, during our neighborhood tour we visited a newly zoned site consisting of work and residential buildings.
Habitat for Humanity-Flint is helping a family rebuild a new home and retail space where people can play tabletop games, like Dungeons and Dragons.
Syracuse described a highly successful partnership between St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Care, a workforce development program, and community revitalization program. Through St. Joseph’s leadership, the surrounding neighborhood is being revitalized, hospital employees are living in the neighborhoods, and the hospital is achieving an unprecedented retention rate among local residents who participate in the workforce program.
Dayton discussed the advantages of utilizing a non-profit, CityWide Development Corporation to direct redevelopment around key anchors in the city—including a new elementary school and a hospital. CityWide, as the lead entity for this public-private partnership, is spearheading three major redevelopment projects that are tied to key anchor institutions.
Downtown Flint is revitalized and populated. The Flint Weather Ball is also visible in this picture. It turns red when the temperatures are predicted to rise and blue when the temperature is expected to go down. The night of the picture, the temperature was remaining steady and so the ball was yellow.
Roundtable participants were excited by a new strategy Youngstown is piloting, which they call micro-planning. The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC) has identified key schools, churches, and other community facilities that can potentially be a catalyst for neighborhood regrowth and YNDC is now directing its resources to the blocks that surround these smaller institutions.
The challenges these cities have faced—and the ability to master and leverage these challenges into opportunities—was inspiring and reaffirmed the resiliency and strength of these places.
Ridgway White, CEO of the C.S.Mott Foundation was our host for the Roundtable. Over dinner we swapped stories and received advice and suggestions from peer cities on different revitalization strategies.
This past Friday, Greater Ohio's Executive Director Lavea Brachman was featured on the WXXI Rochester NPR station's "Innovation Trail" program on the topic of her recent report, "Regenerating America's Legacy Cities." Lavea co-authored the report with Alan Mallach for the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Below is an excerpt from the interview:
“As cities lose extensive populations, public sector capacity gets lost to address these problems, but that’s not impossible to turn around, and that kind of vision is critical. We talk a lot in that report about strategic incrementalism, which is forging a shared vision about a city’s future as a starting point for change. And it is about coming to some common understanding about where to target resources. And it is about being incremental and strategic. You have to make change, starting perhaps with downtowns as the source and then looking at these emerging neighborhoods.
But public policy is a double-edged sword… so, for instance, if you’re dealing with a housing crisis, which many of these cities are, it’s more likely you’ll be able to shorten or expedite the foreclosure so these properties get back on the market or make some changes on how banks handle abandonment…, and while these seem like small changes they are the kinds of changes that can really make a difference in a neighborhood. So we may not be able to see huge subsidies or public investments going to new infrastructure quite yet.”
This morning at 10am, Executive Director Lavea Brachman will be featured on WOSU's All Sides with Ann Fisher show, discussing Detroit's potential for a comeback despite the city's bankrupt status.
You can listen to the show, "Low Times in Motown: Detroit Files for Bankruptcy," by tuning into WOSU (89.7 FM) or you can listen to the live stream online.
On Saturday, The Boston Globe published Brachman and Alan Mallach's article, "Gateway cities don’t need a silver bullet," about the report they wrote together - Regenerating America's Legacy Cities - for the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
The report explores the challenges of regenerating America’s legacy cities—older industrial cities that have experienced sustained job and population loss over the past few decades. It identifies the powerful obstacles that stand in the way of fundamental change in the dynamics of these cities, and suggests directions by which cities can overcome those obstacles and embark on the path of regeneration.
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.