Dimensions of Distress

Facilitator: Joe Schilling
Participants: Robert A. Beauregard, Terry Clements, Giselle Datz, John Provo

Exploring the Dimensions of Distressed Cities — the intersection of theory, policy, and emerging practices

For decades scholars, community leaders, and policymakers have grappled with the plight of distressed cities. Driven by a convergence of sprawl, deindustrialization, racial tensions, crime, and property abandonment, many cities—large and small—have struggled to overcome the chronic cycle of neighborhood decay. While long associated with older industrial cities, urban distress is now a major challenge for fast growing cities and inner ring suburbs thanks to the Great Recession and recent foreclosure crisis.

Within the past five years policymakers and practitioners are testing new, place-based initiatives for addressing different scales of neighborhood decline under the rubric of shrinking cities. A new generation of planners, designers, and community developers in such cities as Cleveland, Detroit, and Baltimore are pushing the boundaries and experimenting with new models for repurposing vacant land and surplus buildings that could reconfigure abandoned neighborhoods. The Obama Administration’s recent Strong Cities-Strong Communities initiative, with support from private foundations, is launching its own recipe for cross-agency collaborations that tailors policy interventions across a spectrum of different communities.

This session will explore what it means to be a distressed city across different scales, disciplines, and the vantage points of scholarship and field work. Leading urban scholar Robert Beauregard will provide a road map on the history and geography of shrinking US cities and will join in conversation with VT Professor Joe Schilling to share their thoughts on emerging initiatives that reclaim vacant properties, reconfigure abandoned neighborhoods, and create greener and more livable communities. VT Professors Clements, Datz, and Provo will respond with their respective cross-disciplinary perspectives of design, global and international affairs, and rural/small town economic development.

Further reading (check back, we’ll be adding along the way):

Mallach, Allen (ed.). (2012). Rebuilding America’s Legacy Cities. New Directions for the Industrial Heartland. New York: The American Assembly, Columbia University.

Dieter Rink, Annegret Haase, Matthias Bernt and Katrin Großmann (2010): Addressing Urban Shrinkage Across Europe –Challenges and ProspectsShrink Smart Research Brief No. 1, November 2010On behalf of the Shrink Smart consortium.Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research –UFZ, Leipzig

Matthias Bernt, Matthew Cocks, Chris Couch, Katrin Grossmann, Annegret Haase & Dieter Rink (2012): Policy Response, Governance and Future Directions, Shrink Smart Research Brief No. 2, March 2012,  Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Leipzig.