Strong Cities: Flint, Gary, St. Louis, Macon & more

By Stephanie Sung

The Obama Administration and the Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative (SC2) have recently announced its expansion to include seven new cities:

Brownsville, Texas; Gary, Indiana; Flint, Michigan; Macon, Georgia; Rockford, Illinois; Rocky Mountain, North Carolina; and St. Louis, Missouri.

SC2 is a program that helps link urban leadership with federal resources and expertise with the hopes that it will help reduce red tape and improve local capacity. What this means is that the federal government has placed capable officials in cities that could use them. People like Kathleen Fox, SC2 Fellow and recent Legacy Cities Design Initiative participant, have been on the ground for nearly two years in several legacy cities, including Cleveland, Youngstown, Detroit and New Orleans.… Read More

Historic Preservation Conference: Call for Presentations by Feb 1st

The American Assembly has posted a call for presentations for an upcoming interdisciplinary meeting to discuss the role of historic preservation in revitalizing America’s legacy cities.

The Assembly is partnering with Cleveland State University and the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, CEOs for Cities, and over two dozen other organizations to bring together key stakeholders and decision-makers from cities where entrenched population loss and economic decline present difficult challenges for the future of the urban built environment to discuss historic preservation.

From the CSU call for presentations:

At this crucial juncture, cities face difficult questions. What is the role that preservation can and should play in shaping the future of legacy cities? How can historic assets be identified and leveraged for planning and revitalization? What benefits and impediments exist in integrating preservation into community and economic development? How should we make decisions about what to save and what to destroy?

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The New Spirit of Detroit

WJBK in Detroit posted the following video of a woman being attacked by a cat (after serious provocation, it should be noted).

Feral Cat Embodies the Spirit of Detroit, is Forever Memorialized in a New Statue Downtown: a headline we hope to see in 2014.… Read More

New Market Tax Credit Expires

By Stephanie Sung

The future of the New Market Tax Credit (NMTC), a federal subsidy for businesses and development agencies to encourage investment in underserved communities, is now unclear as the program expired at the end of 2013. NMTC officially ended at the close of 2011 but was quickly renewed. There’s no sign of extension this time around, though senators Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) and Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) introduced legislation to make the program permanent in June.

Next City’s Bill Bradley has been covering the successes of NMTCs and recently wrote on what one distressed community in Chicago now faces with its recent expiry:

The loss of NMTCs won’t entirely scare off investors, but it could certainly give them pause. Southside Community Optimal Redevelopment Enterprise (SCORE), an organization on Chicago’s South Side, was awarded $20 million in credits in 2012. Joe Bakhos, SCORE’s community outreach director, expressed worry for how developers and investors will finance projects in low-income neighborhoods once the NMTC program expires.

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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.

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Moving from Balkanized to Globalized in Cleveland

AaronRenn_350By Aaron Renn

“Cleveland didn’t decline because industry left. Cleveland didn’t decline because people left. Vacant houses are not Cleveland’s cross to bear. Cleveland’s ultimate problem is that it is cut off from the global flow of people and ideas. Cleveland needs to be more tapped into the world.”

Jim Russell and Richey Piiparinen have released a new whitepaper on Cleveland that should be read by anyone looking to reboot the economies of struggling post-industrial cities. Released under the auspices of Ohio City, Inc., “From Balkanized Cleveland to Global Cleveland: A Theory of Change For Legacy Cities” looks at how a lack of population churn has stunted Cleveland’s ability to connect to the global economy.

This paper puts a different spin on talent and the knowledge economy. “Knowledge” is not just facts acquired through education or work experience. It also includes the set of personal relationships and knowledge of other places and social networks that we all carry to some extent.… Read More

Federal Judge Rules Detroit Eligible for Bankruptcy

[Edited 12/4/13]

A round-up of links to noteworthy responses to Detroit’s bankruptcy announcement and implications of pension cuts:

More Cities Should Go Bankrupt at Slate

Pension Ruling in Detroit Echoes West to California in the New York Times

A great article by Detroit Free Press journalist and legacy cities advocate John Gallagher outlining next steps for Orr after the ruling

A Growth Strategy for Post-Bankruptcy Detroit, published by Brookings in July 2013


Today’s court ruling confirming Detroit’s insolvency means that:

  • The city may reduce its overall debt (a total of $18.5 billion)
  • More time and more options in sorting out how to pay off the debt that is left
  • Creditors (city unions, pension funds) can lose billions in long-term liabilities–they are expected to appeal the ruling
  • The city may now move towards restoring essential services (with court supervision)

From the New York Times article:

One central argument from lawyers for the city’s public sector unions and retirees was that Detroit’s request for bankruptcy protection came before it had made good faith attempts to negotiate with creditors.

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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

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

Cortez-Li-Liu © 2013

The Urban Freeway Debate: I-81 in Syracuse

If you’re not familiar with the I-81 viaduct battle in Syracuse, this video is a great way to get caught up.

Marc Norman is the Director of Upstate Syracuse, a design and research center at Syracuse University, and a leader in the field of analysis taking place to weigh city’s options as the expressway deteriorates. Marc spoke with News Channel 9 on the opportunity to reconnect the city and begins to answer the question: is this the right answer for Syracuse?

We’re not going to presuppose what the answer is but we’re going to ask the right questions. How do we reconnect the whole street grid? Do we make one-way streets two-way instead? Do we use signalization of lights? Do we create other streets or reconnect what became super blocks so that streets go through again? I think asking all those questions to the DOT will get us some other answers as to whether a boulevard is the right answer here.

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