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They are stardust. They are golden. But are they right about “shrinking cities”?

Kaid Benfield

Posted July 2, 2009 in Environmental Justice, Living Sustainably

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Warning: this is a long one.

Readers of a certain age will remember Joni's Mitchell's iconic anthem "Woodstock," celebrating the famous 1969 music festival (which, incidentally, she did not attend, but I digress).  The song became a monster hit for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (who did attend) in 1970.  Its chorus, propelled by the group's trademark high harmonies, called us to get "back to the garden":

We are stardust

We are golden

And we've got to get ourselves back to the gar-ar-arrrr-ar-arr-ar-dennn . . .

It was, and is, a fantastic song.  But it is not, I repeat not, a reliable environmental solution to urban problems.  Unfortunately, it does fairly characterize where a lot of the environmental movement's sentiment and energy was in the 1970s when we, pretty much like everyone else, vilified cities and romanticized the countryside.  I remember that, when NRDC founded its urban program in the mid-1980s, it was actually an unusual thing for an environmental group to do.

What we didn't realize then, but now do (a lot of us, anyway), is that auto-dependent sprawl with solar panels and compost is still, well, auto-dependent sprawl.  And that compact, walkable cities, suburbs, and towns are not the problem but the solution.

The push to reclaim large parts of "shrinking cities" for nature

Which brings me to something that is becoming all the rage with a certain stardust-tinged segment of the planning world: re-vegetating older, industrial "shrinking cities" with green space where vacant properties and isolated occupied homes now stand.  Let's clear the debris of vacant houses and lots, the argument goes, and turn their spaces into gardens and natural areas, since the economies of Detroit, Buffalo, Baltimore and the like can't support repopulation.  In other words, just as some of us had finally convinced the environmental movement of the terrific value of cities in reducing per-capita environmental impacts, along comes a movement to de-urbanize cities. 

an AIA team's reimagining of Detroit as villages separated by agriculture (courtesy of AIA Communities by Design)I noted my concern with this strategy last month in a post about Detroit, which has been presented with a plan by an architects' study group to do exactly that.  (See image: everything outside the designated "centers" would be proposed for greenways or reserved as "opportunity areas" for potential agriculture.) 

My post led to a thoughtful rebuttal from Jason King (who had been part of the study group) on his own blog, Landscape+Urbanism.  (Blog vs. blog - am I 21st century or what?)  I should add that I am a regular reader of King's commentary and always find it provocative and beautifully illustrated if sometimes not quite as urbanist as I might like.  His point here is that it is only realistic to consider "shrinking cities" for what they are, and find an approach that responds to their new paradigm.  King, who is a landscape architect, seems quite enamored of the "shrinking cities" idea, having blogged about it four times in the last three weeks. 

At least King says he isn't the source of the report in the Detroit Free Press (quoted here) that "the committee suggests that Detroit could recreate itself as a 21st-Century version of the English countryside."  (Apparently that comes from another thoughtful and nice guy on the team, Alan Mallach, with whom I have had the pleasure of serving on a now-defunct AIA committee.  But really.)

It's gaining traction but, fortunately, some neighborhoods will escape

The idea is definitely catching on, reportedly even in the Obama administration.  An article by Tom Leonard in the London-based Telegraph, headlined "US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive," puts it this way:

"Dozens of US cities may have entire neighbourhoods bulldozed as part of drastic 'shrink to survive' proposals being considered by the Obama administration to tackle economic decline.

"The government is looking at expanding a pioneering scheme in Flint (MI), one of the poorest US cities, which involves razing entire districts and returning the land to nature . . .

"The radical experiment is the brainchild of Dan Kildee, treasurer of Genesee County, which includes Flint.

"Having outlined his strategy to Barack Obama during the election campaign, Mr Kildee has now been approached by the US government and a group of charities who want him to apply what he has learnt to the rest of the country.

"Mr Kildee said he will concentrate on 50 cities, identified in a recent study by the Brookings Institution, an influential Washington think-tank, as potentially needing to shrink substantially to cope with their declining fortunes . . ."

I should note here that Jennifer Leonard of the National Vacant Properties Campaign, who has been working with Dan Kildee, says that he was mispresented by this article and actually wants to do something more limited than the article suggests.  farmers' market in once-vacant but now-recovering Old North St. Louis (courtesy of ONSL Restoration Group)I hope so, and I'll get to that toward the end of this post.  Looking at ways to "shrink" neighborhoods in fifty cities?  Yikes.

Look, maybe there's a happy medium somewhere.  Appropriately-sized neighborhood green space can be great for cities and their residents.  But I for one am really, really glad this idea didn't have traction a decade or two ago, when it easily could have led to the demolition of vacant houses and properties in such wonderful, now-recovering neighborhoods as Old North Saint Louis (photo of new farmer's market above), Boston's Dudley Street, or even Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine, now poised to become a national model of revitalization done well.  Every one of those terrific neighborhoods could have been subjected to the same logic, since they all suffered serious decline and depopulation in weak-market regions before things began to turn around in recent years.

We won't solve the problem without addressing the cause

I also wish the turning-cities-back-to-nature crowd would give at least some mention to a major reason why these places now have vacant properties: the flight of investment and population to the metro fringe.  Dudley St., the poorest neighborhood in Massachusetts, was 2/3 covered in vacant lots but is now recovering (courtesy of Dudley St Neighborhood Initiative)Everyone is saying or implying that it is all the decline of the industrial economy, but it's not that simple.  Most of these regions are not, in fact, declining in population much or at all:  The metro areas of Detroit, Baltimore and Boston all grew from 1990 to 2003.  Metro Baltimore and Boston continued to grow in the 2000s; metro Detroit did decline between 2000 and 2008, but only by six-tenths of one percent.  Areas like Rochester and Syracuse, frequently put in the "shrinking city" column, also basically have been holding steady in the 2000s.  There are indeed regions that are shrinking, some in the Rust Belt, but almost none by more than five percent (Pine Bluff, Arkansas is one of the exceptions).

So, yes, some central cities have depopulated badly (though even within the central city limits the rate of loss generally appears to be slowing), but most of their regions have continued to sprawl.  I haven't reviewed the most recent statistics but, in the 1980s and 1990s, Pittsburgh grew in developed land six times faster than in population; Boston five times faster; Chicago and Cleveland four times faster; Baltimore 2.5 times faster; and so on.  Greater Buffalo grew by 50 percent in developed land between 1982 and 1996, even while experiencing no growth at all in population; the metro regions of Detroit and Rochester grew in developed land by 20 percent and 16 percent, respectively, even while shrinking slightly in population during that period.

Viewed from this perspective, the problem is not one of much if any real metro area depopulation but mainly the changed geographic distribution of that population as regions have failed to address sprawl.  suburban & even rural densities proposed for inner-city Cleveland (courtesy of Reimagining a More Sustainable Cleveland)That is a problem that needs fixing.  Converting large amounts of currently urban land "back to the garden" without also addressing sprawl will only ensure that any further population shifts or recovery will occur in favor of the fringe, where the per-capita environmental damage is the greatest.

Regional problems need regional solutions

Put another way, if you're a doctor with a patient suffering from trauma and blood loss, first you stop the bleeding.  Then you proceed to surgery, if necessary.  But so far no one is suggesting anything of the sort.  So many well-minded people remain trapped in the artificial jurisdictional straitjacket that looks only within the central municipality's borders, ignoring the reality that the larger region is where the deeper solutions lie.

The president himself has acknowledged that 21st-century challenges are more regional than municipal, in a 2008 campaign address on "the new metropolitan reality":

"It's not just our cities that are hotbeds of innovation anymore, it's those growing metro areas. It's not just Durham or Raleigh - it's the entire Research Triangle. It's not just Palo Alto, it's cities up and down Silicon Valley . . .

"To seize the possibility of this moment, we need to promote strong cities as the backbone of regional growth. And yet, Washington remains trapped in an earlier era, wedded to an outdated 'urban' agenda that focuses exclusively on the problems in our cities, and ignores our growing metro areas; an agenda that confuses anti-poverty policy with a metropolitan strategy, and ends up hurting both . . .

"Yes, we need to strengthen our cities. But we also need to stop seeing our cities as the problem and start seeing them as the solution. Because strong cities are the building blocks of strong regions, and strong regions are essential for a strong America. That is the new metropolitan reality and we need a new strategy that reflects it . . ."

Moreover, some of these "shrinking" central cities are just now beginning to show a few signs of potential.  While central cities in weak-market areas are still claiming an unfortunately small share of overall metro growth, it is worth noting that their share of that growth has been increasing from the 1990s to the 2000s.  Cities where this has occurred include Baltimore, Milwaukee, Providence, Rochester, Saint Louis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and even Detroit, among others.  This is not the time to surrender their potential to the suburbs.

A happy medium?

Now, I'm OK with converting smaller tracts of vacant and derelict land into urban green space, which could turn out to be a net plus for all concerned, and maybe that's where the happy medium comes in.  Appropriately scaled parks for walkable neighborhoods are great for a lot of reasons, not least because they can support future investment and development.

And I'm definitely OK with targeting public urban investment to nodes within a city that have the most potential to recover, as suggested some time back by Joe Schilling of Virginia Tech and the National Vacant Properties Campaign.  It makes some sense to engage those neighborhoods first and then, if there are results, move to additional areas.  Richmond's Church Hill neighborhood, whose recovery was assisted with targeted funds (courtesy of City of Richmond)The article in which Joe's thoughts are cited points to a very successful program in Richmond (example, photo left) that has demonstrated the viability of targeting.

But going ambitiously after 50 inner cities to address supposed depopulation issues with land conversion while most of them are in regions that are relatively stable or growing?  And doing nothing about the sprawl that is a major source of the problem?  Good heavens.

I'm not alone

Having done a little research, I am relieved to learn at least that I am not the only one who thinks we should proceed very cautiously with re-purposing these neighborhoods and direct our attention to the entire region, not just the central city.  Richard Layman is another writer that I read regularly, in his blog Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space:

"Because I think that the dynamics of urban decline and the possibilities for revitalization are more nuanced . . . the 'solution' offered by Dan Kildee, treasurer of Genesee County north of Detroit, as recounted in the story, 'US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive,' [linked above] is too harsh and can't be applied categorically . . .

"Cities that have relied on manufacturing will have to shrink somehow. But the real issue is continued outmigration and expansion and greater utilization of land per capita in metropolitan areas. In short, metropolitan regions continue to expand significantly, at rates greater than that generated by population growth."

Mathieu Helie, writing on the blog Emergent Urbanism, is another skeptic who believes the proposed solutions need to be better considered:

"If we embrace complexity, then the randomly sized pockets of open land are an exceptional opportunity to renew the city of Detroit. They form a fractal solution set to new construction that many different people can participate in and contribute to. It can accommodate small, medium-size and eventually large-size businesses in close proximity with diverse housing and convenient transportation structures . . ."

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Gregory Rodriguez's views come close to my own:

"The plan makes sense on some level, but it's disturbing on another. Anyone who's driven by miles of empty lots in Detroit knows that urban demolition does more than destroy blight. It also erases history and what a city was. Cincinnati's recovering Over-the-Rhine had declined over 90% in population (courtesy of CincyImages.com)Traces of the past have always been jumping-off places for the next chapter (think rehabbed Victorians or sleek post-industrial lofts). And, of course, the back-to-nature plan -- which could be used in cities such as Memphis, Baltimore, Philadelphia and others -- is fundamentally an admission and may be an assurance that these cities will never rise again."

More hopeful models

There are other, more hopeful models.  Roberta Brandes Gratz, author of Cities Back from the Edge and The Living City, points on Citiwire to Wilkinsburg, a one-time streetcar suburb of Pittsburgh that has suffered major abandonment of both residential and commercial properties.  The city is now benefiting from an innovative public-private-nonprofit partnership that is renovating vacant historic properties, resulting in the first home sales in the area in years. 

In Buffalo, the West Side community, much like Boston's Dudley Street before it, is taking control of its own destiny, going directly to problem property owners or instituting legal proceedings to buy vacant properties cheaply and resell them at bargain prices to local buyers willing to repair and occupy them. volunteers on Buffalo's West Side help clean & prepare vacant properties for rehab (courtesy of PUSHBuffalo)Gratz writes that community volunteers are also painting over graffiti, cleaning out rubble lots, crowding out drug dealers and prostitutes by strategically working with the police, planting trees, fixing sidewalks, mowing lawns and anything else to show their determination and caring.  Houses are now selling; new people are moving in; and leaders from other Buffalo neighborhoods are seeking advice on how to develop a similar strategy.

As the National Vacant Properties Campaign says on its website, "this is usable land already connected to urban infrastructure.  For metropolitan areas looking to accommodate growth without consuming the surrounding countryside, these properties amount to a large reservoir of land for well-planned development."  Most of these areas are still growing in the surrounding countryside. 

Before publishing this post, I contacted Jennifer Leonard of the Campaign, who believes land banking is a very useful tool for dealing with vacant structures and tracts.  Land banking allows a community to gain control of, consolidate, and hold troubled properties while planning for the community's future and potential recovery; a form of the practice was immensely helpful in assisting the recovery of Dudley Street in Boston. 

proud new homeowner in the Dudley neighborhood (photo by Evan Richman)Dan Kildee has gained a national reputation for his use of the technique in Flint, and Jennifer assures me that land banking, not wholesale conversion of urban parcels back to nature, is Kildee's real aim for "shrinking cities."  I hope that turns out to be the case, though I have a fear that, if banked land is used for gardening and green space even "temporarily," communities will never welcome development on those parcels.   As a result, we basically risk creating a fragmented countryside with suburban/rural densities (see rendering developed for inner-city Cleveland, above) in the center of a region.  We will see. 

Meanwhile, Roberta Brandes Gratz makes her central point most eloquently:

"One is hard pressed to find a city or even a neighborhood that was ever regenerated through demolition of vacant buildings. Didn't we learn of the hollow results from the discredited post-World War II urban renewal policies that destroyed - and for decades left bereft - vast tracks of troubled residential structures?"

Let's at least slow down

To all this, I would add only that a major recession is probably the worst possible time to draw conclusions about a neighborhood's - or a city's, or a region's - long-term potential for recovery.  At least let's give it a wait before making long-term land use decisions that take developable inner-city land off the table, OK?  And let's not use a sledgehammer to perform what probably should be delicate surgery.

Plant a neighborhood garden or create a neighborhood-scaled park?  Absolutely.  And enjoy it.  But turn large tracts of city land "back to the garden" without also curbing sprawl on the edge?  I'm not convinced. 

You can still enjoy the song, though.  This is a relatively recent, jazzy version by Joni:

   

Kaid Benfield writes (almost) daily about community, development, and the environment.  For more posts, see his blog's home page. 

 

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Comments

Dan KildeeJul 2 2009 11:07 AM

This is Dan Kildee. Jennifer Leonard is exactly right - our effort is to carefully and strategically re-green the urban landscape to support higher density, walkable neighborhoods and to present urban land to the market in a way that the market can actually absorb.

There is no 50-city demolition plan - never was. That's crazy.

What you are saying in this piece, Kaid, is almost word-for-word what I have been saying and doing for 7 years.

It's very dangerous to our mutual cause to simply repeat other news reports - all of which simply repeat a once-written error - rather than just reach out to the source directly.

We are on the same team, so lets not let Rush Limbaugh set fire to our agenda, and sit back and watch with glee as allies turn on each other.

Kaid @ NRDCJul 2 2009 11:20 AM

I appreciate your perspective and thank you for your comment, Dan. My intention is mainly to add to the perspective that is out there. That's why I didn't "simply repeat" news reports, but added context (including, twice, Jennifer Leonard's suggestion that you had been misrepresented) and commentary.

I don't listen to Limbaugh (whom three people have now invoked to me on this subject in the last two days!), so I don't know what he has been saying. But I trust it is something other than what I am saying. :)

Alice DubielJul 2 2009 12:49 PM

I really like your discussion, and share your concerns. I think part of the anti-urban strain in American thinking is a legacy which includes Jefferson, Louis XVI & Le Corbusier (Vincent Scully nailed this), and even goes back to the classical notions of Arcadia. I'm always suspicious when the solution involves bulldozing, since it's so imperialist and unjust. At least in WA state, laws requiring bulldozer interruptus support archeological concerns, especially for native discoveries. I hope we can create urban communities that can evolve with the contribution of everyday artists and ancestors.

Kaid @ NRDCJul 2 2009 01:51 PM

Jennifer Leonard has kindly forwarded me an article that presents a much more nuanced view of what Dan is advocating. Here's a key quote:

"[Kildee] said he was talking about the creation of a 'land bank' much like Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority, an agency that holds onto properties and tries to sell them in a planned, systematic way. The land-bank lessons are ones Mr. Kildee had been asked to 'apply to the rest of the country,' and he's been having those talks with both the Obama administration and the and Bush administration before that, he said."

The article, unfortunately, does not address my own main point, which is that some of these regions are not, in fact, shrinking; their central cities have become hollowed out mainly because there have been no curbs on sprawl. No solution that looks only within the central city's borders will be the right one for either the economy or the environment, and some well-intentioned solutions could even be harmful. But I am nonetheless happy to have another perspective on the issue and, if it more accurately states Dan's views, so much the better.

Peter SmithJul 2 2009 01:58 PM

i was expecting to read somewhere in this post something about 'urban growth boundaries', but it never made an appearance. nor did any other possible solution to outmigration. (unless i missed it?)

also, lots of us hippie urban gardener types see value in planting urban gardens and reclaiming pavement for the inherent value in doing such things -- not because we're participating in some grand conspiracy to save some ghastly city. rather, we want for ourselves and the people around us -- sustainability, local food, fewer pesticides, healthier people, more community, etc.

and i don't see any problem with de-urbanizing failed cities -- especially if they don't have economies. we should be trying to get sustainable -- whether in a megacity or in a small town on the fringe. that cities may, on the whole, be more energy-efficient than 'outside'/suburban areas may be a mirage, anyways. when we've managed to shift the real economy out of the cities, that certainly seems possible. and outmigration patterns don't have to abide by the same development patterns they've always used -- maybe urban growth boundaries come into play? maybe people start seeing the value in neighborhoods and communities and small-town living all over again?

i don't know -- the whole reaction to de-urbanization -- "OMG! The de-urbanists are coming!" -- seems overblown. people want to bulldoze crackhouses. so what? those are real 'on the ground' concerns for people.

Paul JoiceJul 2 2009 02:39 PM

Kaid, I'm not aware of any shrinking cities advocates suggesting that those cities be "de-urbanized". Rather, what Mr. Kildee and others (such as the AIA group led by Alan Mallach) want to do is re-urbanize them: to take areas that have been made low-density by population outmigration, and to consolidate them into higher density walkable nodes.

JeremyJul 2 2009 04:15 PM

@Paul Joice,

From what I've read, Kildee doesn't exactly have a clear plan for redevelopment. In fact, the Huffington Post quoted him a couple weeks back saying that land "could be redeveloped, handed to neighbors, or returned to nature."...that's it. I wouldn't exactly characterize this as a plan to "re-urbanize."

Anyways, this is a good post. I've written a bit on it myself, questioning shrinkage as an effective metropolitan policy: http://socialsciencelite.blogspot.com/2009/06/nationwide-urban-shrinkage-and.html and http://socialsciencelite.blogspot.com/2009/05/urbanshrinkage.html

Kaid @ NRDCJul 2 2009 04:24 PM

Paul, of course no one would use that term. But someone did use the phrase "a 21st century version of the English countryside." That doesn't sound particularly urban, unless worse things have happened to the English countryside than I'm aware of.

Like I said, I think there is probably a happy medium that will allow some thoughtful consolidation along with carefully targeted amounts of "greening." But it is important to remember that most of these metro areas are growing. The problem of sprawl must be dealt with at the same time as the challenge of vacant properties, lest the vacancies become self-perpetuating.

Peter, there's no doubt that UGBs, if drawn sufficiently tightly around these metro areas, would help. That way the Vacant Property Campaign's principle that these properties be considered a "reservoir of land for well-planned development" can be given real meaning.

Terry SchwarzJul 3 2009 09:29 AM

This is Terry Schwarz, from the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative. You used one of our drawings in your post without any context, and as such it's a bit misleading. We are not, "Converting large amounts of currently urban land 'back to the garden'." Cleveland has lost more than half it's population in the past 60 years and vacancy is a byproduct of this loss. Right now, there are over 3,300 acres of vacant land in the city--this land is not, by any stretch of the imagination, "currently urban." The city's losses were sustained long ago and we are determined to put some of this land back to productive use for food production, the generation of alternative energy, and the restoration of damaged urban ecosystems.

Northeast Ohio, to its detriment, has never embraced regionalism or any real limits on growth. The Lake Erie Balanced Growth Initiative is a fairly recent effort to concentrate development in core areas, while limiting growth in others, particularly in parts of the region with wetlands and other sensitive hydrological resources. This is a step in the right direction, but it doesn't change the fact that large tracts of land in the central city have been vacated over the past decades and that total re-development of all this vacant land is unrealistic in the foreseeable future. The fundamental laws of supply and demand are in force here...we built too much, we sprawled too much, and now we have too much. So some of the land within city limits needs to be reused in ways that are not traditionally considered "urban" but are a vast improvement over the current state of blight and abandonment. To label this effort as "de-urbanization" is overly simplistic and unfair. What we are proposing is a new kind of city, one that is more resilient and self-sufficient, where we can begin to undo some of the environmental degradation that occurred during the city's decades of rapid growth. If we do this well, we will begin to shift market forces back toward the central city, spurring new opportunities for growth, development, and restored population density in ways that are sustainable, healthy, and equitable.

Jason KingJul 7 2009 01:24 AM

Kaid. Thanks for bringing up the ongoing dialogue in terms of Detroit (and the overall idea of Shrinking Cities). The SDAT process was a good process and definitely began to coalesce into a vision - but was also a week long and should definitely not be construed as 'the solution' to what is a complex problem. I am going back to this topic often, as I was left with a permanent imprint from my short time there that is both innate fascination and specifically driven by the completely different nature of Detroit versus Portland in terms of urban evolution and issues.

One of the major points of conversation in the SDAT process was that people were (finally) beginning to acknowledge that the expansive and sprawling growth of the City of Detroit was not ever going rebound in terms of pure economics nor develop in the same way that created to initial urban form. And really this was way pre-recession - not a product of the recent downturn. People were relieved, as years of 'let's get the economy back and we'll be ok' mentality did little to create viable economic change nor good solutions for the City in general. This did acknowledge the urban flight problem, but set the only metric of success as full re-inhabitation, offering little in way of solutions.

Rather than provide a utopian 'garden' in the fabric of this shrinking city (thus my cringing at the analogy to 'english countryside' - the landscape provides a variable and adaptable field for a number of potential uses (to name a few: agriculture, open space, habitat, power generation, new industry, as well as vibrant good development) that were meant to become the next wave of urbanization. We were very specific in not taking any land 'off the table' for future development but rather looking at many empty acres that required infrastructure and upkeep. Agriculture is at best a productive use for land otherwise left fallow - at worst a temporary interim use for land until it is re-inhabited in, hopefully, a better way that takes advantage of good principles and gives people choice and options. If the size of Detroit in population rebounds - it still won't need the sizable urban footprint that it has - but the concentrations of population will provide dense centers. This is why 'urban growth boundaries' isn't appropriate - there's way too much land already.

I know this isn't 'urbanist' thinking but that's the point. The tenets of landscape urbanism, quoting Waldheim: "...describes a disciplinary realignment currently underway in which landscape replaces architecture as the basic building block of contemporary urbanism. For many, across a range of disciplines, landscape has become both the lens through which the contemporary city is represented and the medium through which it is constructed.”
It's changing the way we think of urbanism (especially for traditional planning theorists) and definitely is in need of more discussion, but it sure makes a lot of sense, particularly in Detroit and other shrinking cities. The key is not thinking of the land or buildings for that matter as binary - either development or landscape - but always in flux and in need of intervention and evolution. Sometimes this means protection of cultural and historical resources. Sometimes it means, for lack of a better term, a redo. This is the key to our future - getting out of the idea that one direction leads on a direct and singular path - but that it is constantly forking and twisting to what inevitably will be different and much more wonderful than any planning process, no matter how well thought out, can envision.

Looking forward to this great conversation continuing.

Kaid @ NRDCJul 7 2009 11:27 AM

Jason, you are thoughtful and articulate as usual. I do think the topic can benefit from a lot more conversation of this type. I don't pretend to be an expert on this particular aspect of either landscape or urbanism, but I do know that I am not the only one raising questions.

I also know that the challenge presented by hollowed-out urban cores is formidable. I think my main interest is in seeing that transportation patterns and suburban expansion be given their due as highly relevant topics as the search for solutions continues.

BTW, for readers still following the topic there has been a very robust conversation going on also over at Richard Layman's blog. Richard is from Detroit but now lives in DC, and is able to bring a perspective that a lot of us don't have.

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