Why We Need a New Word for “Blight”

By Justin G. Moore

Driving through Soulsville, a community in Memphis that lives up to its name, we pass by modest homes, long-vacant buildings (including the house where Aretha Franklin grew up), deteriorated roads and sidewalks, and overgrown and dumped-on lots that presumably were once home to families and businesses. Our group had just met at the Memphis Slim House, a vibrant and inspiring local community arts and education organization that had mustered the will and resources to help nourish their neighborhood’s soul–one mural, one bus stop, one gathering place, one creative outlet, and one soul at a time.

But still, as we continued to explore this part of the city, it was hard to ignore all of the… blight?

Then a brief but strange encounter with the police during our visit reaffirmed that this community’s problems were deep and that the tools being used to deal with these problems are blunt and imperfect.… Read More

Perspectives from Newburgh, Part Two

We asked graduate students from Columbia University‘s architecture and urban design program to reflect on their studio in Newburgh, NY, and what makes work in legacy cities distinct from other American cities. The second winning submission comes to us from Anais Niembro and Nans Voron. Thanks to all the teams who participated!

Working in Newburgh was a challenge for us, as students coming from all other the world. We had to face specific issues deeply rooted in the social struggles of the last 50 years in the United States. We had to quickly analyze and understand this historical context in order to identify triggers and leverage the tools that we had.

Our involvement with the city of Newburgh was also a challenge for the community. Even though many stakeholders were enthusiastic about our collaboration, addressing the local community was difficult. Many were intimidated by our “investigation”, others worried that our work would lead to gentrification and to a loss of social ties amongst the residents.… Read More

Media Round-Up!

This week in legacy city news:

An Uneasy Peace for a Cash-Strapped City and Its Prestigious Nonprofits
Emily Badger writes on the nonprofit status of higher education and medical anchor institutions in legacy cities.

Big Ideas from the 2013 Bruner Loeb Forum Detroit
Metropolis magazine gives a great overview of The American Assembly and The J. Max Bond Center’s work on Legacy City Design and the 2013 Bruner Loeb Forum on Legacy City Design in Detroit.

Turning a City Into a Homegrown National Park
A story from Good on Toronto’s Seaton Village transformation through greenery and poetry.

Why Cities Can’t Win in State Government
Richard Florida highlights a study to support an “age-old urbanist complaint” that “economically powerful cities are held hostage by rurally dominated legislatures.”

Finally, a reminder that the deadline for the Vacant Property Research Network’s Master’s Award is February 15, 2014:

The Vacant Property Research Network (VPRN) announces its first annual scholarship to sponsor two masters students whose research contributes to new knowledge and practice around vacant properties.

Read More

Legacy City Design / Bruner Loeb Forum 2013

Last week in Detroit, the Legacy City Design Forum convened over a hundred designers, planners, architects, developers, community leaders, public officials and policy makers to share innovative design interventions in legacy cities. Cities represented include: Detroit, Gary, Flint, New Orleans, Baltimore, St. Louis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Youngstown, Syracuse, Buffalo, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

The forum was structured to include comparative case studies between Cleveland, Syracuse, Detroit and Buffalo, and featured guest speakers and interactive work sessions. The two themes of the conference were 1) rethinking land use to create sustainable urban neighborhoods and 2) innovative infrastructure in high vacancy areas.

Check out dispatches from the forum here, courtesy of Next City:
How America’s Largest Historic Public Market District Is Resisting ‘Commercial Gentrification’
Detroit’s Repopulation Question
Syracuse Considers Urban Freeway Removal
Two Cautionary Tales on Housing Access
Rebuilding the Neighborhood Without Leaving Out Neighbors
Saving Detroit’s Basements, One Prairie at a Time

A few great recaps from Barbara Epstein for the LOEBlog, at the Harvard Graduate School of Design:
Fueling Hope
Innovation and Scale
Looking Forward
Pockets of Inspiration

And finally, an article from Architectural Record:
Learning From Legacy Cities

“Legacy Cities” was coined by The American Assembly at Columbia University, which published Rebuilding America’s Legacy Cities, a collection of policy and regulatory reforms necessary to “move the needle” on urban transformation for this unique group of cities.… Read More