In many articles throughout Next American City’s Issue No. 27, we take a frank look at how the financial crisis — and the events leading up to it — have affected the U.S.‘s cities and suburbs. It’s a subject that we discuss continually but haven’t given cover space to since Issue No. 22 when we looked at the fallout from foreclosures.
If this issue of Next American City will convince you of anything, it’s that many Americans are still facing dire economic circumstances despite the official end of the recession. Evidence of financial uncertainty is everywhere, from the growing appeal of cheap, interstate bus travel ( which are featured in an article called “The Buses are Coming”) to the increased need for food assistance (“The Food Fight,”).
But looking at urban America, adversity may be the mother of social innovation. Cities suffering from poverty have taken novel approaches to improving their landscape. In Cleveland, a 207,000-square-foot vacant mall is being repurposed as an organic farm! And in Philadelphia, blank brick walls are recast as love letters to the neighborhood. Solutions need not be cute; In suburban Chicago, Mano a Mano, a social services center, is providing workforce training, computer classes and English lessons to new, poor Latino immigrants as discussed in a feature called “Surviving Suburbia.” Indeed, throughout this issue are examples of best practices for worst-case scenarios, leaving you only to wonder what urban revitalization would look like in better times.
But outstanding local efforts alone can’t revamp the United States. How will our country change from being financially overextended, underemployed and energy-inefficient? Listen to Next American City’s new podcast, Metro Matters, to hear more about the potential for transformative change in our metropolitan regions (americancity.org/podcast). Created in collaboration with the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, the monthly podcast gives insight into the future of America’s economy, infrastructure and policy. In interviews with experts and researchers such as Bruce Katz, Alan Berube and Elizabeth Kneebone , we have dissected what is ailing this country and what needs to be done on a grand scale to ensure our global competitiveness, social equity and environmental sustainability. Matching local ingenuity with a global perspective could be the recipe for a real recovery.