The City After Abandonment (Margaret Dewar and June Manning Thomas, Editors, University of Pennsylvania Press) is a collection of essays from top urban planning experts that address three questions essential to understanding cities plagued with abandonment: What have such cities become? What makes a difference in what cities become after abandonment–what policies, politics, social relationships, institutions leads to different outcomes? What should/can such cities become after abandonment? Built on the assumption that growth isn’t a reality for all cities, the book lays out various strategies for policymakers and planners to consider when approaching cities with extensive abandonment. Through the examination of several innovative policies and programs found in cities such as Baltimore, Cleveland, Youngstown and New Orleans, the book assesses these efforts.
For example, the book features a chapter by Metropolitan Institute Director Joe Schilling, and former MI research assistant Raksha Vasudevan titled “The Promise of Sustainability Planning in the Regeneration of Shrinking Cities.” Schilling and Vasudevan devised a framework for examining the sustainability plans of Cleveland, Buffalo, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. They suggest that well-designed sustainability plans establish strong policy connections among the unique physical, social, environmental and economic challenges confronting many distressed communities.
While observing growth in the policy work and programs centered on the issue of abandonment, Dewar noted there was little research focused on their actual effectiveness, and even less attention grounding these efforts within traditional theories of how cities/regions work. The City After Abandonment was conceived to fill this gap. By evaluating levers of change, Dewar hopes the book will serve as a foundation for additional research, while also elevating the field of planning. As a profession, planning has traditionally focused on spurring and guiding development, The City After Abandonment challenges this idea and the field to reconsider what planners can and should be doing in places with little or no development.
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