Shrinking Cities

New England’s “Rising Star” has several initiatives underway to promote economic growth and increase home ownership. I’ll be writing about some of these projects and programs in future posts. In the meantime, I came across an interesting article on the Wall Street Journal Online that talks about a very different strategy, purposely planning to shrink a city.

According to the article, Youngstown, Ohio has seen its population decline by 60% over the last fifty years. Heavily focused on the steel industry, Youngstown saw most of its steel mills close during the industry downturn in the 1980s. Tens of thousands of jobs left with the mill closures. Since then, Youngstown has been plagued with blight and abandonment. Over a thousand homes, businesses, schools, and other structures have simply been abandoned. In order for Youngstown to survive, the city planner and other city officials came up with a unique and controversial plan to shrink the tax base by razing empty structures in order to create more green space, reducing infrastructure and services accordingly.

I found this article refreshing. So many times we see cities trying to fight economic cycles with a short term view and rose colored glasses. It is impossible for every US city to grow at the same rate, yet we see declining cities continue to push for growth when it may not be the financially responsible thing to do. Just like a business, a city must reevaluate its strategic plan when faced with new economic challenges. Continuing to do the same thing and expect different results is foolish and naive. Transforming from a struggling larger city to a thriving smaller town should be viewed as a responsible way of using taxpayer dollars and safe guarding for future generations.