Can We Demolish Our Way to Revitalization?

alanmallachBy Alan Mallach

While the answer to that question in the title of this piece is obvious, there’s a strong case to be made that a lot of the buildings that make up America’s older cities may have to go, if these cities are to find a path to a new, better future. That was brought home recently by a NY Times article with the misleading title of “Blighted Cities Prefer Razing to Rebuilding.”

The title is misleading, because I know a lot of people in these cities, and I can’t think of a single one who actually prefers razing to rebuilding. At the same time, the article made an important point: for cities like Detroit, Cleveland or Baltimore, demolition has started to become a strategy, not an intermittent response to the individual problem building. This is a tough conclusion to reach, especially for those of us who love old buildings and admire the individual efforts that have saved many of them over the years, but an inevitable one.… Read More

Intercity High-Speed Rail and Urban Suburbs

samhershBy Sam Hersh

I am certainly not the first to point out the ability of a high-speed-rail line to bring small cities into the metropolitan area as “semi-urban suburbs.” In fact, the idea is trumpeted about so often, (especially in England where high-speed rail emanating from the south has extended the London megalopolis ever northward) that I fear we in America have started to see high-speed rail as a silver bullet for many struggling legacy cities.

Instead, we should look to such high-speed rail suburbs as a possible asset for metropolitan areas in need. We should not aim to pour the money necessary for a high-speed rail line into any city that seems close enough to benefit. To justify the cost of building a high-speed rail line to a legacy city with the hope of creating an urban suburb, two questions must be asked that challenge the usefulness of the line, not just to the development of the legacy city but to the metropolitan region.… Read More

Remaking Cities Congress Sketches Agenda for the Post-Industrial City

bradshawhoveyBy Bradshaw Hovey

Three hundred fifty city-makers from across the United States and Europe convened in Pittsburgh last week (October 15-18) to craft an agenda – perhaps a manifesto – for the regeneration of the post-industrial city.

The outlines of the work produced by the “Remaking Cities Congress” will be familiar to supporters of the legacy cities movement: promote reuse of vacant buildings and land, support education and innovation for economic growth, improve mobility for all and address the deep inequities of opportunity and condition that rend the city fabric on both continents.

The workshop element of the conference included five themed groups each of which featured paired European and North American case studies: Bilbao & Milwaukee, the Ruhr Valley & Buffalo, Manchester-Liverpool & Greater Toronto, Rotterdam & New Orleans, Turin & Detroit.

“Propositions” that received overwhelming support from the attendees in closing “clicker” or keypad voting included:

• Invest in education to cultivate talent
• Connect the city through multi-modal mobility
• Grow entrepreneurial capacity
• Make housing adaptable and flexible
• Provide financial incentives for re-use
• Confront racism and marginalization
• Cultivate the “soul” of the city

Those preliminary results, along with extended profiles on the case study cities, will become the subject of a book on reemerging post-industrial cities for publication in 2014 or beyond.… Read More