January 20, 2020

Legacy City Sustainability—The Greenventory

While larger legacy cities, such as Detroit, Cleveland, and Philadelphia, have received national attention, many  small and midsize legacy cities have also successfully developed their own type of green and sustainable policies and programs to stabilize neighborhoods and revitalize communities.  With support from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, a team from the Urban Institute is conducting a three year project to learn more about the urban sustainability endeavors of small and midsized legacy cities.

The 2019 Greenventory involved a scan of web sites, policy reports, and articles to identify relevant green and sustainable activities in a range of cities that have lost substantial population (at least 15 to 20 percent) since a mid-century peak and currently have between 40,000 and 300,000 residents (e.g., small cities, such as Dubuque, IA, to cities such as Buffalo, NY, on the larger end). Green and sustainable activities (the 4Ps) were included if they touched one or more of the following seven topic areas:

  • Green or blue infrastructure
  • Climate change/ energy
  • Green economy and jobs
  • Solid waste or recycling
  • Food policy
  • Transportation
  • City operations and capacity

Our initial review focused on 43 cities where we identified more than 100  programs. About three-fourths of cities we found included some type of green or sustainable programming. Green and blue infrastructure activities were the most common followed by climate change and energy-use programs. The activities were remarkably diverse in terms of both size /potential impact, policy area, and duration. For a complete copy of the Greenventory, click below.

For 2020 the Urban Institute team will be convening  two regional focus groups and reaching out to local government officials and community based organizations in legacy cities to understand the barriers for smaller municipalities and how to overcome them. If you know of good examples and/or want to nominate programs and policies from your city, town or township, please click here or email us [email protected]