Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 25 of 25

Thread: Urban areas in Mass.

  1. #1
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
    Registered
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Land of Confusion
    Posts
    3,736

    Urban areas in Mass.

    Massachusetts has a relatively strong economy and high quality of life. Boston's status as a second-tier world city is not in doubt. But I'm puzzled why every other city in the state of considerable size (at least 50,000) is in steep decline and can't generate any type of economic development. Fall River, New Bedford, Worcester, Lynn, Lowell, Lawrence, Springfield, and Holyoke have all been struggling for years and the state has pretty much given up on them.

    I guess I'm wondering if this situation is unique to Massachusetts or if there are some other states with a similar problem- one major economic center and a bunch of struggling cities?

  2. #2
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
    Registered
    May 2003
    Location
    Staff meeting
    Posts
    8,107
    Michigan could be analogous.

    Most of the medium size cities are kinda struggling - Flint, Saginaw, Jackson, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Pontiac, etc.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    The Cheese State
    Posts
    9,893
    A dozen or so years ago I had the experience of siting a new store in Springfield, Mass. Although the job I had at the time took me to several troubled places, that is about the worst one I can recall. I don't think the problems with the city are physical - the building stock was no different from elsewhere, the infrastructure was just as good, the city's location was not an impediment. The problem seems to me to be one of intensely concentrated poverty. That brings with it the problems of an educated, high crime rates, poor work histories/habits, and other characteristics that businesses will flee from.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Clayobyrne, CB
    Posts
    2,581
    I think it has a LOT to do with the political and tax structures of municipalities in Massachusetts. Poverty is concentrated in small cities with a declining tax base and poor schools, while al the growth occurs in fringe communities. Boston also sucks the economic life out of most of Massachusetts. It is a huge magnet for jobs and wealth.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Man With a Plan's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Arlington, VA
    Posts
    219
    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller
    Massachusetts has a relatively strong economy and high quality of life. Boston's status as a second-tier world city is not in doubt. But I'm puzzled why every other city in the state of considerable size (at least 50,000) is in steep decline and can't generate any type of economic development. Fall River, New Bedford, Worcester, Lynn, Lowell, Lawrence, Springfield, and Holyoke have all been struggling for years and the state has pretty much given up on them.

    I guess I'm wondering if this situation is unique to Massachusetts or if there are some other states with a similar problem- one major economic center and a bunch of struggling cities?
    Great question.

    I will state my thoughts in small increments as I could go on for hours on this subject.

    Thought #1a: Several medium-sized cities (50,000-200,000 pop) in Massachusetts are doing very well (e.g. Cambridge, Quincy, Somerville, and Newton). What do these four have in common? They all border Boston. But they're suburbs MWOP! Not so fast...Cambridge, Newton, and Quincy are all in the top 10 for Massachusetts population and have economies of their own.

    Then what is it? There appears to be a geographic pattern here. Observe- the cities struggling the most are either located in the Springfield Valley (e.g. Springfield and Holyoke), Merrimack Valley (Lawrence and Lowell), or Southeast Mass (Fall Riv, and New Bedford). Due to time constraints, I cannot proceed at this moment. However, I will continue shortly. Have a great night Cyburbia
    !

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Greenescapist's avatar
    Registered
    Apr 2002
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    1,169
    Most of those Massachusetts cities are old mill towns. Mill towns everywhere have been dying- I think the situation must be similiar in upstate NY and PA. I imagine the loss of manufacturing will cause a similiar change in medium size cities in the Midwest and South.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
    Registered
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Land of Confusion
    Posts
    3,736
    Quote Originally posted by Greenescapist
    Most of those Massachusetts cities are old mill towns. Mill towns everywhere have been dying- I think the situation must be similiar in upstate NY and PA. I imagine the loss of manufacturing will cause a similiar change in medium size cities in the Midwest and South.
    The mills closed a long time ago in the Northeast. I think the continued decline of these cities is due to more than the loss of the textile industry.

    As for the south, I don't think manufacturing there is on the decline or will be in the future. Foreign auto makers have opened plants in Alabama and Kentucky (Toyota and Hyundai). I think there's even a BMW plant in upstate South Carolina. The south only recently became a haven for US manufacturing jobs.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Where Valley Fever Lives
    Posts
    6,950

    Well.....

    If I've said it once, I'll say it a thousand times....you need to make at least $100k a year in the Northeast to make it..even if living in New Bedford or Springfield...

    NHPlanner Disclaimer: he he he......oh by the way here is my source: Institute for Cooked and Contrived Numbers (ICCN) & Association of Sham Statistics (ASS)
    Skilled Adoxographer

  9. #9
    Member
    Registered
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Providence, RI
    Posts
    5

    sure

    Quote Originally posted by The One
    If I've said it once, I'll say it a thousand times....you need to make at least $100k a year in the Northeast to make it..even if living in New Bedford or Springfield...
    How do you define make it? I know many property owning young adults with two or more kids making it on less than $65,000. Maybe we don't drive BMW's, but we don't have debt pouring out of our arses either. If my generation should learn anything from the previous its that its not how much you make, its how much you smoke/sniff/drink/gamble/flush down the toilet on credit cards that determines whether you make it or not and if your debts far outweigh your assets you will have trouble even if you wear a suit to work and have your own office. Its like if your belly gets too fat, it gets hard to tie your shoes.

  10. #10
    Member
    Registered
    Jul 2005
    Location
    San Diego
    Posts
    3

    Lowell

    Lowell is a city that has gone through its decline and has been on a tremendous upswing for the last 20 years. In fact it is a model city for urban renewal.

    In the 80s they got a large number of the old mills turned into a National Historical Park. They've renovated a significant amount of the mills and turned them into fashionable apartments and nice offices.

    They also finally came around to embracing Kerouac as an important figure and a source of pride.


    They built a new stadium for their Red Sox summer league team (the Spinners) and the tickets to those games are almost as tough to get as Sox tickets.

    The Cambodian immigrant population has actually been a great thing for Lowell, the group has proven to be a hard working lot and brought a little culture to the town.

    The University of Lowell has been bumed up to a UMass institution, and is a quality school. The unfortunate part about UMass Lowell is that, because of it's history as two independant schools, the campus is split into two distinct halves.

    The main thing holding Lowell back is a poor infrastructure. They really need to figure out their bridge situation. They keep building crappy bridges over the Merimack and when they go bad they don't want to repair them. They had one of the heavily trafficked bridges go down 2 years ago and they never replaced it. It's bad news.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2002
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    3,644
    On one hand the hot real estate market is bringing redevelopment to the cities that are commutable to Boston. But Boston's successes are pricing out the poor who are ending up in cheaper urban areas like Brockton, Lawrence etc.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
    Registered
    Jun 2005
    Location
    NYC area
    Posts
    783
    Quote Originally posted by sal_paradise
    Lowell is a city that has gone through its decline and has been on a tremendous upswing for the last 20 years. In fact it is a model city for urban renewal.

    In the 80s they got a large number of the old mills turned into a National Historical Park. They've renovated a significant amount of the mills and turned them into fashionable apartments and nice offices.

    They also finally came around to embracing Kerouac as an important figure and a source of pride.


    They built a new stadium for their Red Sox summer league team (the Spinners) and the tickets to those games are almost as tough to get as Sox tickets.

    The Cambodian immigrant population has actually been a great thing for Lowell, the group has proven to be a hard working lot and brought a little culture to the town.

    The University of Lowell has been bumed up to a UMass institution, and is a quality school. The unfortunate part about UMass Lowell is that, because of it's history as two independant schools, the campus is split into two distinct halves.

    The main thing holding Lowell back is a poor infrastructure. They really need to figure out their bridge situation. They keep building crappy bridges over the Merimack and when they go bad they don't want to repair them. They had one of the heavily trafficked bridges go down 2 years ago and they never replaced it. It's bad news.

    They don't repair the bridges because several of them were built by the Army Corps of Engineers as temporary bridges with a limited service life. They were meant to serve as stopgaps and function for only a few years. All of the money being poured into the city's JAM plan and efforts to revitalize the downtown has meant that there is less money to repair the city's aging infrastructure.

    Now, the city wants to build a new bridge across the Merrimack to replace the University Ave Bridge, which is one of those temporary bridges. MassHighway has deemed the bridge unsafe for use in the long term, so the city is hurrying to get this new bridge built. The problem with this is that the new bridge would barrel right through the Acre, the poorest section of Lowell, and make life hazardous for the many pedestrians and residents without cars in the Acre. The residents don't want the bridge, but since Lowell's city councilors all serve at-large, there is no one to represent them. The issue is a political landmine right now.

  13. #13
    Member
    Registered
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Cambridge, MA
    Posts
    5
    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller
    The mills closed a long time ago in the Northeast. I think the continued decline of these cities is due to more than the loss of the textile industry.
    James and sal paradise make good points. Also, the decline of these cities is not new. They went into recession when the mills started closing, and were never able to pull out of it. Now that other cities are on the upswing, it's even harder for the struggling cities to attract a market. It's hard to turn a poor city into a thriving area without a lot of new money, and that new money is going other places.

  14. #14

    Registered
    Jul 2003
    Location
    The foggy isle of Vinalhaven
    Posts
    196
    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller
    I guess I'm wondering if this situation is unique to Massachusetts or if there are some other states with a similar problem- one major economic center and a bunch of struggling cities?
    New York State is almost completely analogous to Mass in this regard - NYC=Awesome. Albany, Syracuse, Buffalo, Poughkeepsie, Binghampton, and many others all have some serious problems...

  15. #15
    Cyburbian ChevyChaseDC's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Philadelphia, PA
    Posts
    190
    The situation is definitely not unique to Massachusetts. Many other states are chock full of depressed/static small to mid-size cities, including Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio. Fall River and New Bedford have in common with Saginaw and Flint that they were reliant on manufacturing and didn't have the resources to reinvent themselves as 'knowledge economy' cities when those jobs disappeared (or as giant retirement communities, as some warmer places are becoming).

  16. #16
    In general, medium sized cities are in decline while the big cities are improving. I think it has a lot to do with metropolitanism. People don't want to live in a place that's not in a big metro area. While urbanites want to live in the next SoHo and suburbanites want to live within an hour's drive of the next SoHo, just about nobody wants to live in an urban yet isolated place. Big metros are where jobs are migrating (be they to downtowns or suburban fringes) and that's where "high culture" is. Big metros have the critical mass necessary to support a House of Blues or an opera company and all the other requirements of an enlightened populous.

    Beyond that, I think medium sized urban places haven't as successfully made the transition to a post-industrial economy as their big brothers. There are a lot of small cities where it's difficult to live the "urban" lifestyle dispite the "urban" built environment. What's the advantage of living in a beautiful walkable pre-war neighborhood if the only decent grocery options are a 10 minute drive out of town on a strip of sprawl? (and forget a mass transit system, small cities can't support them). Whereas a single urban neighborhood served by neighborhood retail could thrive in the old economy, the new world of big box regional retail leaves small urban areas at a real disadvantage. This is the case for most of the small cities in Pennsylvania. There's no "high culture" to attract the descriminate urbanites who would prefer mom and pops to Wal-Mart anyway.

    Don't fret though. Big cities were in serious decline in the late 70s and early 80s when small-to-medium cities were still doing okay. Now that New York and Chicago are (re)booming, it's only 20 more years still Springfield will make a comeback

  17. #17
    Many states that have one over dominant city have this problem. the over dominent cities suck the life out of the rest of the state.

  18. #18
    Member
    Registered
    Jan 2006
    Location
    New York, NY
    Posts
    10

    Small cities with great, walkable downtowns and all amenities

    If you think small cities can't succeed, check out New Haven, CT. Thousands of new apartments being built have brought in incredible development. Within easy walking distance of the town green (the historic center that borders City Hall, Yale University and was created in the 1630s) there are now 200 restaurants and dozens of greengrocers, and hundreds of other stores where you can find anything.

    The proximity to NYC helps, of course, as all of the family-run groceries make bombing runs into Hunts Point Market in the Bronx every morning before the store opens Last time I went I was surprised to find even some of the small grocery stores in downtown New Haven had better quality produce than any of the largest supermarkets in New York City, including Whole Foods in Union Square.

    Cambridge, MA is in a sort of similar situation, although it is overgentrified (and doesn't really count because it is really just an extension of Boston). The great thing about New Haven is you can drive 5-10 minutes out from the city and be on beautiful beaches or gorgeous sections of rural land (apple orchards, horse farms etc.).

    Other than those, though, most small cities are struggling and will continue to do so for the forseeable future. The key to success in New Haven is the enormous residential population living downtown (having Yale on the edge of downtown, with its flowering biotechnology industry, helps too).

  19. #19

    Registered
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Solano County, California
    Posts
    6,468
    As has been pointed out in other threads, one of the biggest reasons remains centralization of economic functions into fewer hands, with headquarters generally located in the suburbs of one of the metropolitan centers.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2005
    Location
    London, UK
    Posts
    1,150
    Better/faster transportation and instant communication as well as de-industrialization means that you tend to need fewer, bigger cities or (given Anglo-American preference for pseudo-sylvan fastness) lots of very small.suburban ones.

    The information-economy-based, cool urbanites will live in mega 'world' cities and find min-sized cities provincial and thedistribution-economy-based, run-and-hide suburban crowd will want to live in make-believe Mayberries. The in-between stuff dies.

    Here in teh UK, when cities liek Birmingham or Manchester actually spend money trying to advertise that they are 'cool' and 'happening' it's almost so sad you don't laugh...almost.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  21. #21

    Registered
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Solano County, California
    Posts
    6,468
    Quote Originally posted by Luca

    The information-economy-based, cool urbanites will live in mega 'world' cities and find min-sized cities provincial and thedistribution-economy-based, run-and-hide suburban crowd will want to live in make-believe Mayberries. .

    .
    Harsh, Luca...Very very harsh

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2005
    Location
    London, UK
    Posts
    1,150
    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    Harsh, Luca...Very very harsh
    Well...I live in a suburb, of sorts, though walkable, etc..."for the kids" dontcha know!
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  23. #23

    Registered
    Oct 2001
    Location
    Solano County, California
    Posts
    6,468
    Quote Originally posted by Luca
    Well...I live in a suburb, of sorts, though walkable, etc..."for the kids" dontcha know!

    I live in a classic Mayberry surrounded by the horrific results of modern construction and development trends and (yes, jaws) bad regulations. 25,000 lovely post war "housing units" or "product lines" both of which are awful terms for what used to be "neighborhoods" Simply calling the development pods "villages" or "Ranchos" or "Estates" doesn't help at all.

  24. #24
    States with massively dominant cities will usually have this situation. The overly dominant cities suck the life out of the rest of the state because the representation in government is so unbalanced.

    Examples:

    Illinois
    New York
    Mass


    One interesting thing is that this was a major factor in Hillary's win as US Senator from NY. The down state politician from the NYC area that she was running against was going around the state touting how good the economy was in the state. Well needless to say the upstate areas were shocked that this guy could be so clueless to the horrid condition of the state outside the NYC metro. Hillary being an outsider actually seemed to know more about the state than this guy and jumped on the opening she was given. She won the race in no small part to the fact that the downstate guy knew nothing about upstate.

  25. #25
    Member
    Registered
    Dec 2005
    Location
    New York City
    Posts
    4
    Providence, RI, would have fit in this category 10 years ago.What a difference a decade can make.

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Replies: 6
    Last post: 28 Feb 2013, 8:54 AM
  2. [OMG!] urban areas
    Friday Afternoon Club
    Replies: 23
    Last post: 05 Apr 2011, 8:11 PM
  3. Interstates in urban areas
    Transportation Planning
    Replies: 7
    Last post: 12 Apr 2008, 10:56 PM
  4. Can development in urban areas survive...
    Economic and Community Development
    Replies: 11
    Last post: 15 Aug 2007, 1:49 PM
  5. Replies: 14
    Last post: 29 Dec 2004, 1:03 PM