Cities Shrinking to Survive

"More cities in the developed world shrank than grew in the last three decades. More than 40 of those cities were in the United States, according to City Mayors, an urban affairs think tank," writes Gordon Young.
July 18, 2010, 7am PDT | George Haugh
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Dan Kildee believes, "shrinking cities must accept that they're not going to regain their lost populations anytime soon." Abandoned buildings must be leveled and replaced with parks, green and public spaces if new occupants cannot be found. "But demolitions are just part of the plan. He says the "genius" of his approach is that it implements a regional land use strategy that redistributes real-estate wealth."

It is an approach pioneered in Germany after reunification, where there was a mass exodus from eastern cities as people moved to the more prosperous west. Kildee has received considerable criticism for his plans, which appear to run "counter to America's can-do spirit, its reputation for boundless optimism." It is difficult for elected officials to back a plan that essentially requires citizens to lower their expectations.

"But popularity doesn't equal good policy," concludes Kildee.

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Published on Friday, July 16, 2010 in Slate Magazine
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