How can cities repair and rebuild communities in the midst of population shrinkage? How should abandoned properties be transformed to benefit the community?
These issues, among others, will be up for discussion at the Center for Community Progress’ three-day Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference in New Orleans, which begins today.
As an increasing number of cities have recognized that diminished populations will not be regained in the foreseeable future, many have explored the concept of “planned shrinking” as a necessary step of urban evolution. In such cities as Detroit and Pittsburgh, the focus has been shifted from growth to shrinking the city’s footprint, reducing the cost of infrastructure originally designed to support larger populations.
Dan Kildee, co-founder of the Center for Community Progress, has been a vocal supporter for planned shrinkage on a national level, and particularly in his hometown of Flint, Mich. Kildee, now on leave to run for Congress, advises cities to replace abandoned or vacant buildings with urban gardens and green space and to use incentives to entice residents of under-populated neighborhoods to relocate to higher-density, healthier communities. He’ll speak at the conference, weighing in on discussions concerning land banking.
Meanwhile, Next American City will host a panel on how young community advocates are getting involved to create more equitable and sustainable cities. NAC Executive Editor Ariella Cohen will speak with three community leaders, each with a distinctively DIY approach to activism in their respective communities: Sarah Filley of Popuphood, Jenga Mwendo of the Backyard Gardeners Network and Dominic Robinson, CEO of CenterState.
In New Orleans alone, there are nearly 50,000 vacant homes. That’s a lot of space and a whole lot of opportunity for change.