creative repurposing, creative destruction

cities

The long anticipated High Line has opened, and it is truly a wonderful public space. New Yorkers, I often contend, love to see their world in new and interesting ways, and the new High Line (designed by Diller Scofidio & Renfro) fits the bill. Even on a gloomy day, Erin and I bumped through the crowds, eager to catch a new vista. Including the nearby Christopher Street Pier (opened in 2003), two new public urban spaces are incredibly successful uses of ‘leftover’ spaces abandoned in the 1980s: a decaying set of piers and a stretch of elevated train trestle (see some old pics here, and a ‘virtual tour’ of the new park here), both testaments to eras gone by and monuments of glorious post-industrial leisure. A nice writeup in the Times, states that 30 projects will be spun off of the High Line, including an outpost of the Whitney Museum.

The High Line from above

At the other end of the scale, I read of Flint’s plan to return large segments of the city to nature, and that the Obama Administration has asked the treasurer of the country in which Filnt is located, Dan Kildee (“Decline in Flint is like gravity, a fact of life”), to concentrate on 50 US cities. The Times explains that the city’s population (about 110,000 people–a third of whom live in poverty–in 75 neighborhoods across 34 square miles) will be concentrated in particular areas, rather than having the city wait out to demolish abandoned buildings. This ‘planned shrinkage’ is just a

The article also mentions Berkeley’s Institute for Urban and Regional Development, which has a Shrinking Cities Workgroup that asks a set of key questions:

1. What are the different effects of city shrinkage on demographics, economics, social life, and urban form?

2. What urban and regional policies, programs and strategies have been successful in addressing the problem of shrinking cities?

3. What are the respective roles of public and private initiatives? How can they be coordinated? Who are the key players in the redevelopment process of shrinking cities?

Flint, MI, set in nature

4. What are the key factors linking globalization and city shrinkage? Can successful approaches be generalized, or are they locally/regionally specific?

5. Which assumptions, concepts, values and practices of planning and development need revision in view of the shrinking cities phenomena? Is there a need for a new vision and a shift in paradigm for urban and regional planning and growth?

6. What are the policy implications of shrinking cities for urban and regional development? What are the respective roles of local, regional and national policies and programs?

7. Globalization and sustainable communities, sustainable growth and possibilities of early warning systems?

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