2014

"Legacy Cities" Can Revitalize by Building on Assets, Lincoln Institute Report says From Baltimore to St. Louis to Detroit, no silver bullets

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., June 25, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Enduring assets such as downtowns, parks, transit systems, and academic and cultural institutions are the key to revitalization for struggling industrial cities like Baltimore, St. Louis, and Detroit, says a new report published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

In an analysis of 18 cities facing manufacturing decline and population loss, Alan Mallach and Lavea Brachman, authors of Regenerating America's Legacy Cities, advocate step-by-step "strategic incrementalism" to promote economic development, rather than the silver-bullet approach of signature architecture, a new ballpark or sports arena, or other megaprojects.

The obstacles to growth after years of decline can seem overwhelming, say Mallach and Brachman, who are both nonresident fellows at The Brookings Institution. The authors examined cities in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, the South, and the Midwest that had a 2010 population of at least 50,000 and a population loss by 2010 of at least 20 percent from their peak level.

But a renewed competitive advantage, which will enable legacy cities to build new economic engines and draw new populations, can come from leveraging longstanding assets such as downtown employment bases, stable neighborhoods, multimodal transportation networks, colleges and universities, local businesses, medical centers, historic buildings and areas, and arts, cultural, and entertainment facilities, the authors say.

"Intentional strategies are needed to unlock the potential of a city's assets to bring about sustainable regeneration," the authors write. Making progress "begins with leaders sharing a vision of the city's future and then making incremental, tactical decisions that will transform the status quo, while avoiding grandiose and unrealistic plans."

The roster of cities in Regenerating America's Legacy Cities, in various states of revival and decline, includes Akron, OH; Baltimore, MD; Birmingham, AL; Buffalo, NY; Camden, NJ; Canton, OH; Cincinnati, OH; Cleveland, OH; Dayton, OH; Detroit, MI; Flint, MI; Milwaukee, WI; Newark, NJ; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; St. Louis, MO; Syracuse, NY; and Youngstown, OH.

Mallach and Brachman first took stock of the challenges these cities face by reviewing the economic, social, market, physical, and operational factors that have led to their present condition. The relative health or vitality of each of these cities was tracked with 15 separate indicators to measure population change, socioeconomic condition, housing markets, and economic activity – all showing a range of successes and setbacks.

The authors argue that regeneration is grounded in the cities' abilities to find new forms, including new physical forms that address the loss of population and changing economy. New models of governance and leadership, new forms of export-oriented economic activity, and new ways of building stronger regional and metropolitan relationships are other vehicles to successful regeneration.

In addressing the question, "what does it take to change?" the authors discuss what is meant by successful regeneration, followed by an exploration of obstacles to change, leading to the presentation of a model, which they call strategic incrementalism, as a framework with which cities can overcome these obstacles and pursue successful change. They identify the key elements of revitalization as:

  • Rebuilding the central core
  • Sustaining viable neighborhoods
  • Repurposing vacant land for new activities
  • Re-establishing the central economic role of the city
  • Using economic growth to increase community and resident well-being
  • Building stronger local governance and partnerships
  • Building stronger ties between legacy cities and their regions

In addition to urging a rethinking of state and federal policy as it relates to legacy cities, the authors recommend that cities seeking to rebuild and reinvent themselves should not think in terms of one large, high-impact solution – such as a sport stadium or convention center – but rather foster change through smaller steps in a variety of areas.

About the Authors

Alan Mallach is senior fellow at the Center for Community Progress, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and a visiting professor in the Program for Sustainable Planning and Development at Pratt Institute. He is co-author of another Lincoln Institute publication, Inclusionary Housing in International Perspective: Affordable Housing, Social Inclusion, and Land Value Recapture

Lavea Brachman is the executive director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. She has been a visiting fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and a visiting professor in Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

Regenerating America's Legacy Cities
Alan Mallach and Lavea Brachman
2013 / 60 pages / Paper / $15.00 / ISBN: 978-1-55844-279-5
Policy Focus Report / Code PF034

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy is a leading resource for key issues concerning the use, regulation, and taxation of land. Providing high-quality education and research, the Institute strives to improve public dialogue and decisions about land policy.

SOURCE Lincoln Institute of Land Policy



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