by Sandy Ikeda
From the New York Times, “An Effort to Save Flint, Mich., by Shrinking It”:
Instead of waiting for houses to become abandoned and then pulling them down, local leaders are talking about demolishing entire blocks and even whole neighborhoods. The population would be condensed into a few viable areas. So would stores and services. A city built to manufacture cars would be returned in large measure to the forest primeval.
After Katrina, some urbanists urged New Orleans authorities to adopt something like this policy of “planed shrinkage,” but largely for political reasons it was summarily rejected.
Given New Orleans’s cultural heritage, perhaps they might also find Cleveland’s approach useful, as reported in The Wall Street Journal, “Artists v. Blight”:
Drawn by available spaces and cheap rents, artists are filling in some of the neighborhoods being emptied by foreclosures. City officials and community groups seeking ways to stop the rash of vacancies are offering them incentives to move in, from low rents and mortgages to creative control over renovation projects.
Of course, irresponsible housing and Fed policies created the current foreclosure problem (about which TM has blogged previously). But this form of what looks like mostly spontaneous “urban renewal” has happened elsewhere before (e.g., New York’s Soho and more recently, Williamsburg in Brooklyn) and seems consistent with the natural “death and life” cycle of cities.
The sense I get from the article is that many of the early artists’ projects were grass-roots before government money entered the picture. Ceteris paribus, it’s better to fund people on this scale than to finance grand visions.