Feature – Can the Centers Hold? – The Architect’s Newspaper
August 25, 2012 1 Comment
Christopher Bentley seems to think, according to this post, that “Rust Belt” cities are on the rebound. While he doesn’t seem to consider any cities outside of Ohio, the developments he cites in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati are striking. New stadiums, “eds and meds,” universities and growing residential rental demand have led to new private sector growth and development. Yet of these three cities, two of them are still in population decline. The same is true of my hometown of Pittsburgh, which continued to lose population between 2000 and 2010. However, when you go to downtown Pittsburgh, it doesn’t look like a city on the decline, but one that is on the rise. Part of the population adjustment is generational: boomers and X-ers with families are leaving cities, while younger Gen-Y-ers are moving in. Also, as families shrink, it is entirely possible to have the same number of households while having fewer people. But the real issue seems to be that, in Rust Belt cities as well as others, that the decline is not universal; in fact, while a city as a whole may be shrinking, certain neighborhoods are actually growing. I went to PolicyMap to find the data on this, and sure enough, in the Rust Belt cities that have shown general decline, their centers have actually grown over the last decade (all the following maps are from PolicyMap).
These cities have done a great job of attracting young professionals to their central neighborhoods, but if they want to keep them within the city limits as they start families, they need to move on from focusing on entertainment and rental housing and address issues that concern families – principally crime and schools. Only then will these cities see sustained growth.