Office of Citizen
Rest in Peace,
Submitted by Charles Frost on Sat, 01/20/2007 - 09:27.
Found this this am, C/O a link from Brewed Fresh Daily, and thought I would share, though it might be "old news"...
It's not simply a physical transformation but a dramatic switch in mindset. Richmond's population has lost 56,000 since its peak in 1970, when it had 250,000 residents, and the city is finally coming to terms with it. Green space is replacing boarded-up houses. Small single-family homes are rising where crowded cinderblock apartment buildings once stood. Singles and couples are moving into rehabilitated homes that once housed families of eight.
Slowly, old American cities that have been in a downward population spiral for a half-century or more are reinventing themselves as, well, smaller cities. They're starting to adopt — many, like Richmond, do it unknowingly — tenets of the burgeoning, European-born "Shrinking Cities" movement. The idea: If cities can grow in a smart way, they can also shrink smartly.
"Everybody's talking about smart growth, but nobody is talking about smart decline," says Terry Schwarz, senior planner at Kent State University's Urban Design Center of Northeast Ohio. The center runs the Shrinking Cities Institute in Cleveland, a city that has lost more than half its population since 1950. "There's nothing that says that a city that has fewer people in it has to be a bad place."
It's a startling admission in a nation that has always equated growth with success. Cities are downsizing by returning abandoned neighborhoods to nature and pulling the plug on expensive services to unpopulated areas. Some have stopped pumping water, running sewer lines and repaving roads in depopulated neighborhoods. They're turning decimated areas into parks, wildlife refuges or bike trails. They're tearing down homes no one is living in and concentrating development where people want to move.
Also of interest:
'Reader, if you seek a monument, look around.'
Lately, there's been much attention paid to a seemingly new concept in urban economic development circles: planning for cities that aren't growing, or those that are actually shrinking. Much of the attention has centered on Youngstown, which lost more than half its population in the generation since the steel plants closed, and which has smartly begun comprehensively adjusting to the reality. But of course Cleveland also tends to come up in this discussion as well. USA Today recently published this much-remarked-upon piece about the trend.
But the intellectual architect of this approach is a legendary planning guru who headed the city planning department under three Cleveland mayors and who now teaches at CSU's College of Urban Affairs. Norm Krumholz's national, even international, influence continues to spread even on this, the eve of his ninth decade, through his writing, teaching and shepherding of his far-flung disciples (who include everyone from former first spouse of Cleveland Hunter Morrison, who now works in Youngstown, to University Circle's Chris Ronayne and the Gund Foundation's Bob Jaquay). The occasional brown bag lunch conversations he convenes are legendary in planning circles, and I hope to be allowed to sit in and listen to one sometime soon to experience it for myself.
But back to that concept of his having been an intellectual architect for the urban right-sizing movement. Don't take my word for it. Instead, you could listen to author Kenneth Fox:
Cleveland City Planning Director Norman Krumholz and his associates dramatized the issues for the planning profession by emphasizing that almost all large central cities were losing population, including many that were aggressively pursuing economic development. No perfectly coordinated industrial, commercial, office, tourism and housing development strategy could magically reverse declines at one stroke. Krumholz and associates employ a sophisticated political pragmatism that quickly became known as the 'no-growth planning.'
And yet, just months shy of his 80th birthday, he shows little sign of retreating from his life's work. Late last year, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson appointed Norm to the city planning commission. That means that when his final chapter has been written, he'll likely have made significant contributions to Cleveland's planning vision over parts of six decades. That, my friends, is what you would call leaving one's mark on the world.