Prescription for Shrinking Cities: Don't Demolish, Preserve

For cities across the U.S. facing mass foreclosures and shrinking populations, demolition of abandoned homes is an attractive avenue (see Detroit and Cleveland). Roberta Brandes Gratz argues that the value of preservation deserves to be considered.

Inspired by Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory's speech at last month's Reclaiming Vacant Properties conference in New Orleans, Gratz argues that historic preservation deserves to be considered by so-called "shrinking cities" as they consider ways to stabilize population losses and encourage new investment. According to Gratz, Mallory "prefers working with community-based groups that renovate empty properties and put people back in homes," rather than tearing down abandoned buildings. "When you keep clearing land," said Mallory, "it makes it difficult to get new investment and kill the chance to repopulate."

And, apparently, the findings of a new report, "Historic Preservation and Rightsizing" [PDF], commissioned by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, back Mallory up.

In the cities losing population studied by Don Rypkema and Cara Bertron of Place Economics, "they found the least shrinkage in places where preservation is made a priority over demolition; sometimes renewed population growth occurred. They compared the rate of population change between 2000 and 2010 in the 20 cities with the highest proportional population loss. By overlaying historic district maps on census tracts, they found that historic districts either 'lost less or grew more when the larger city lost population,' Rypkema said."

"Preservation is one of the most potent tools for city revitalization," concludes Gratz. "That message should not get lost amid worries about city shrinkage."


Full Story: In Shrinking Cities, Preserving Existing Buildings Can Stem The Loss


Book cover of the Guide to Graduate Planning Programs 4th Edition

Thinking about Grad School?

New! 4th Edition of the Planetizen Guide to Graduate Urban Planning Programs just released.
Starting at $24.95

Prepare for the AICP Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $209
T-shirt with map of Chicago

Show your city pride

Men's Ultrasoft CityFabric© tees. Six cities available.
Book cover of Where Things Are from Near to Far

Where Things Are From Near to Far

This engaging children's book about planning illustrates that "every building has its place."