Brain Gain in Legacy Cities

By Nicholas Hamilton

My fellow urban policy thinker and sometimes debating partner Aaron Renn at the Manhattan Institute just released a report on Brain Gain in America’s Shrinking Cities. Next City ran an article on Thursday on the topic with some interesting examples of the types of programs Renn advises against. Renn makes some essential points to which every leader in a legacy city should take note. It boils down to this: “brain drain” isn’t happening in your city or it isn’t happening the way you think it is, so change your strategy. (Update: See Renn’s latest article about this in Syracuse.) His main points are pasted below, but the full report is well worth the read and is packed with insightful charts and tables that unpack these observations.

  • Every major metro area in the country that has been losing population and/or jobs is actually gaining people with college degrees at double digit rates.
Read More

Vacancy at Various Scales

terry_schwarzBy Terry Schwarz

Surplus real estate is a common characteristic of legacy cities. Population decline and the ongoing effects of the foreclosure crisis have led to an unprecedented number of vacant and abandoned buildings, which in turn has given rise to the large-scale demolition programs underway in Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo, and many other legacy cities. In the wake of demolition efforts, cities need to take a thoughtful approach to the management and reuse of vacant land, given that much of this land is unlikely to be redeveloped in the foreseeable future.

Detroit has over 100,000 vacant lots within city limits. Philadelphia has approximately 40,000 vacant lots. In Cleveland, the current count stands at about 21,000. Community gardens, greening projects, side yard expansions, and infill development are the most frequent responses to urban vacancy, but these strategies only address a small percentage of the large and growing inventories of vacant land in legacy cities.… Read More

New Exhibition on Great Lakes & St. Lawrence River Region

Fellow urbanists in Midwestern legacy cities might enjoy a new exhibit in Chicago on the Great Lakes Basin, part of a long-term effort to build a geographic coalition to protect the integrity of the world’s largest fresh water resource. The St. Lawrence River connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic through the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada.

Great Cities, Great Lakes, Great Basin engages the public with the vastness and vulnerability of the earth’s largest surface freshwater resource, which spans from Duluth, Minnesota to the Atlantic Ocean. The exhibition depicts the Great Basin as one region defined by the watershed rather than political boundaries and illustrates a vision for the region as an international park that encompasses culturally-rich urban and rural areas. The exhibition also highlights initiatives around the region that Basin cities can learn from to enhance quality of life.

The exhibit was organized by Chicago Architecture Foundation, SOM, and International Secretariat for Water.… Read More