don't overlook the benefits of being a smaller city

Submitted by Susan Miller on Thu, 03/05/2009 - 08:42.

Smaller cities are large enough to offer the diversity, anonymity, and vibrancy of urban culture, as well as levels of density that offer efficiencies of scale. They are also small enough to maintain proximity to sustainable food production and renewable energy resources.

An inversion is at work here: placing smaller cities at the center of analysis leads to an imaginative template that is decentralized, deconcentrated, relocalized. One of the Obama campaign’s strokes of genius was bypassing big–city power centers, where self–appointed national leaders claim to speak for minorities, and working directly with the decentralized grid of smaller–city community organizations across the land. As policymakers rethink the American agricultural economy and invest in renewable energy, they, too, should be looking at smaller cities. Local and municipal leaders also have much to gain in the twenty–first century if they have the eyes to see it.

Small, Green, and Good

The role of neglected cities in a sustainable future Catherine Tumber

This article makes a solid case for the benefits of smaller cities - Cleveland can be one. I have been slowly reading James Howard Kunstler's The Long Emergency - an important, but depressing read. We see these scenarios playing out currently. His follow-up book, World Made by Hand (a novel) paints an interesting look at a post peak oil world. I toggled between the two as I struggled to balance the ideas in The Long Emergency with news reports of the emergency unfolding. He mentions the decay of the exurbs as markets fail (we're seeing that now). Then this morning, as Obama's foreclosure prevention and homeownership restructuring plans hit the NYTimes, I saw his predictions before my eyes (not that I had not expected it).

Unlucky or Unwise, Some Owners Are Left Out of Plan

So I caution against tearing down all of the potentially salvageable homes in Cleveland. As I have said before here in the pages of realNEO, some of those estate dwellers out in Hunting Valley and Westlake may have to leave their outlying domiciles as summer homes or even abandon them for places in the city. It could be an interesting venture for Cleveland Restoration to connect the rich (maybe now not so rich) outliers to century homes and new green infill homes here in Cleveland - something near a transit line. The Opportunity Corridor could be a place for urban infill of restored century or turn of the century homes for Clinic docs, University profs and downtown lawyers. The transit is already there. That's a much better opportunity in a post peak oil world. How long can one sustain a house in Hudson when one's office is on Ninth Street? Maybe some of these folks are considering homes in the city. If not, maybe they should. Cleveland could be marketing itself as an affordable place to live and telecommute. Several years ago I met a producer from Dreamworks who had moved into a modestly priced, but awesome arts and crafts home in Cleveland Heights. I asked why he moved here. He said he could live anywhere because his job forced him to travel anyway and much of his work was done on the phone and internet. He liked the tree canopied streets, the walkable neighborhood and the housing stock, plus it is soooo affordable compared to LA. David Morgenthaler said the same thing at a CSU forum one afternoon when asked why he chose to live here. He said, I have to fly between NY and LA and Chicago anyway - Cleveland is just more livable. It's time our elected officials got with the shrinkage program. In Youngstown, they have turned an abandoned Giant Eagle into a (much more valuable to the community) library. When will we begin to see such reality based smart shrinking here? When will we begin to see outliers in our midst? Soon I supect.

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an hour of fortitude

As I said above, I have been reading The Long Emergency slowly. At this point I have finished it and also read his palliative care novel that followed, A World Made by Hand. I passed the book along to my son who is reading it currently. So if you have not yet had the fortitude to digest this tome, here is Kunstler laying out the issues he covers in the book in a 1 hour talk at Cody's Books.


Right out of the gate he addresses Robert Breugmann who spoke at CWRU's Baker Nord "feel good about sprawlfest". He gets right to the heart of the matter which is that we have been brainwashed to believe that if we wish upon a star, our dreams will come true and that you can get something for nothing.

OK. Now I am going to log of and go do something concret and useful by hand.