"Right-Sizing Cities???

Submitted by Charles Frost on Sat, 01/20/2007 - 08:27.

Found this this am, C/O a link from Brewed Fresh Daily, and thought I would share, though it might be "old news"...
As older cities shrink, some reinvent themselves
Updated 12/27/2006 4:22 AM ET
By Haya El Nasser, USA TODAY
RICHMOND, Va. — A triangular island at the intersection of 23rd and Q streets is paved with bricks and landscaped with dogwood and liriope. The carefully designed patch of green replaced an abandoned house. As modest as it is, the tiny Q Street Park is a powerful symbol of change in the blighted Church Hill neighborhood.

It's not simply a physical transformation but a dramatic switch in mindset. Richmond's population has lost 56,000 since its peak in 1970, when it had 250,000 residents, and the city is finally coming to terms with it. Green space is replacing boarded-up houses. Small single-family homes are rising where crowded cinderblock apartment buildings once stood. Singles and couples are moving into rehabilitated homes that once housed families of eight.

Slowly, old American cities that have been in a downward population spiral for a half-century or more are reinventing themselves as, well, smaller cities. They're starting to adopt — many, like Richmond, do it unknowingly — tenets of the burgeoning, European-born "Shrinking Cities" movement. The idea: If cities can grow in a smart way, they can also shrink smartly.

"Everybody's talking about smart growth, but nobody is talking about smart decline," says Terry Schwarz, senior planner at Kent State University's Urban Design Center of Northeast Ohio. The center runs the Shrinking Cities Institute in Cleveland, a city that has lost more than half its population since 1950. "There's nothing that says that a city that has fewer people in it has to be a bad place."

It's a startling admission in a nation that has always equated growth with success. Cities are downsizing by returning abandoned neighborhoods to nature and pulling the plug on expensive services to unpopulated areas. Some have stopped pumping water, running sewer lines and repaving roads in depopulated neighborhoods. They're turning decimated areas into parks, wildlife refuges or bike trails. They're tearing down homes no one is living in and concentrating development where people want to move.

From: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-12-26-shrinking-cities-cover_x.htm

Also of interest:

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Slow, Steady Cumulative Influence
Of A Planning Guru Named Krumholz

'Reader, if you seek a monument, look around.'
--an inscription near the tomb of Sir Christopher Wren, the British architect who designed much of classical London.

Lately, there's been much attention paid to a seemingly new concept in urban economic development circles: planning for cities that aren't growing, or those that are actually shrinking. Much of the attention has centered on Youngstown, which lost more than half its population in the generation since the steel plants closed, and which has smartly begun comprehensively adjusting to the reality. But of course Cleveland also tends to come up in this discussion as well. USA Today recently published this much-remarked-upon piece about the trend.

But the intellectual architect of this approach is a legendary planning guru who headed the city planning department under three Cleveland mayors and who now teaches at CSU's College of Urban Affairs. Norm Krumholz's national, even international, influence continues to spread even on this, the eve of his ninth decade, through his writing, teaching and shepherding of his far-flung disciples (who include everyone from former first spouse of Cleveland Hunter Morrison, who now works in Youngstown, to University Circle's Chris Ronayne and the Gund Foundation's Bob Jaquay). The occasional brown bag lunch conversations he convenes are legendary in planning circles, and I hope to be allowed to sit in and listen to one sometime soon to experience it for myself.

But back to that concept of his having been an intellectual architect for the urban right-sizing movement. Don't take my word for it. Instead, you could listen to author Kenneth Fox:

Cleveland City Planning Director Norman Krumholz and his associates dramatized the issues for the planning profession by emphasizing that almost all large central cities were losing population, including many that were aggressively pursuing economic development. No perfectly coordinated industrial, commercial, office, tourism and housing development strategy could magically reverse declines at one stroke. Krumholz and associates employ a sophisticated political pragmatism that quickly became known as the 'no-growth planning.'

You'll find that passage in a semi-obscure book published by the University of Mississippi Press, which I happily came upon some time ago and added to my library. It's entitled Metropolitan America: Urban Life and Urban Policy in the U.S., 1940-1980. And it was published more than 20 years ago, in 1986.

And yet, just months shy of his 80th birthday, he shows little sign of retreating from his life's work. Late last year, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson appointed Norm to the city planning commission. That means that when his final chapter has been written, he'll likely have made significant contributions to Cleveland's planning vision over parts of six decades. That, my friends, is what you would call leaving one's mark on the world.

( categories: )

alpaca farming in Brooklyn Heights, Ohio

During the CSU Forum on Shrinking Cities, Terry Schwartz mentioned that she suggested alpaca farming to Youngstown resident who were reenvisioning their neighborhood. With all the empty lots, other suggestions besides parkland included urban vegetable gardens and orchards. Here we find alpacas in Brooklyn Heights, Ohio. Not so far off as an option, Terry. The folks in Youngstown balked at her suggestion. Read about alpacas in Brooklyn here and here.


If you have visited Key West, you are familiar with seeing farm animals in a more urban setting. Chickens are a protected class in Key West. It sets up an interesting argument between chicken lovers and chicken haters, but it is refreshing to see a brood of chicks on the avenue.

Correction Brooklyn Heights Alpacas

Brooklyn Heights is a wonderful community that has kept it's rural charm within the confines of the city.  Think Mayberry RFD.  I hope that it never loses this quality and does not drive away the agricultural heritage maintained by the greenhouses and the Rassi's. 

good eye

I didn't check my typing of the title before posting... my bad. Thanks for your good eye. I will edit the title now for correctness. Have you visted the Rassi's farm? Do you know what they do with the manure?


My friend's son worked at Rassi's, but she is not sure about the manure.  She said to give them a call, because they are down-to-earth.  Brooklyn Heights is the kind of place where everybody knows everybody else.  It is a small world.  The police actually check up on people and the Home Days are like the fifties revisited. 

I volunteer with a non-profit www.westcreek.org and I get to interact with people in Brooklyn Heights, Parma, Independence and Seven Hills. See: http://www.cuyahogavalleychamber.org/
As a Clevelander, I hate to sell the suburbs, but community services do make the community and these Cuyahoga Valley communities know how to keep their quality of life.  I want to see the same kind of cohesiveness in my neighborhood--Brighton Brooklyn Centre.  We have a lot of the same amenities, although people take our advantages for granted and focus on the negative. 

manure and watersheds


I hope that you might do this investigation for us since you seem to be connected or at least closer to the Rassi's farm. I hope you know that I am thrilled to learn about this alpaca activity in Brooklyn Heights, and if you have been reading up on this and already volunteer with West Creek, you know that there are triple bottom line options for manure and options that are not good for our waterways.

If there is manure runoff into the Cuyahoga, it will fuel the growth of algae and reduce dissolved oxygen for fish, right? This cannot be too unlike the reasons we need to pick up after our dogs, so that their poop does not add to the nonpoint source pollution that troubles our watersheds, rivers, lakes, streams, creeks and brooks, etc.

If the Rassi's are composting the manure and finding buyers for it among local farms and greenhouse growers in Brooklyn Heights or surrounding communities, they have another means to support their business. Maybe they are already doing business with Rosby's.

If they have a thriving business and are ready to get really innovative they might reduce their energy bills by doing methane capture. there are numerous examples of biogas capture and anaerobic digetsers. Here's one example. It might be that they have enough profit from their business to invest in further savings and increased future profits.  I don't know of anyone doing methane capture or anaerobic digestion in Northeast  Ohio, except the landfill methane capture in Solon, mentioned in the Rocky Mountain Institute's Study in the Cuyahoga Valley. They did not mention anaerobic digestion of farm waste, but maybe they didn't visit the Rassi's farm.  I have suggested a similar action for the County Animal Shelter at 9500 Sweet Valley Drive in Valley View, whose current policy is to wash all the animal waste into the sewer. In Fairbanks Alaska, the Soil and Water Conservation District initiated and received funding for a better solution. See below. http://www.uaf.edu/coop-ext/compost/dogs.html


Sorry--just caught up with this. I will get back to you soon.