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Thread: What are the ramifications of the "Shrink to Survive" policy?

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    What are the ramifications of the "Shrink to Survive" policy?

    Hello all,

    I was reading this article the other day about my hometown Flint, MI and a policy that they have adopted called "Shrink to Survive".

    I think the concept makes sense, but I worry that there is no community involvement at least that is the perception that I got from the article. Just a bunch of bureaucrats, in this case the county treasurer, making decisions for the uninformed masses. I am all for tearing down blighted neighborhoods and abandoned properties, but build something there that will be beneficial for the community at large like orchards or gardens.

    If anyone here has ever been to Flint, you'll know how dreary and gray it can be, but there was a time when you could walk along the river bank and it didn't wreak of diesel fuel and there were concerts in the park on summer evenings. Anybody ever heard of Autoworld? It was a domed theme park that was erected in downtown that died a pretty awful death. You can only see the giant engine so many times before it gets old.

    Flint needs environmental remediation and it needs to be reclaimed for the diehard few that are there toughing it out. There is no mention in the article about bulldozing some of the 2600 acres GM owns within the city limits.

    If anyone knows the area or is aware of the situation, I would like to hear from you. I may be completely off base on this one since I haven't lived in Michigan for more than 10 years.

    Thanks,

    Po

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Plus pcjournal's avatar
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    I was recently in Flint and posted two reports:
    Not Giving Up on Flint, Part I
    Not Giving Up on Flint, Part II

    My second post may be more relevant to what you ask. I visited -- in the company of two planners who work for the County Land Bank -- two neighborhoods. In at least these areas, the Land Bank has seemed to engage the community, at least they've been working closely with the neighborhood associations.

    I can't really speak to how much the Land Bank and neighborhoods have been working together citywide. But the fact is the city doesn't have the financial resources to deal with neighborhood planning, and at least the Land Bank is stepping into the gap/vacuum in some parts of the city. I know there has been some controversy about the Land Bank, but I wasn't there doing investigative reporting.

    p.s., for another "shrinking city" blog posting, see Audacious or Realistic?, my posting from Cleveland, Ohio.
    Wayne Senville, Editor
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    Dan Staley's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Po3tree View post
    Hello all,

    I was reading this article the other day about my hometown Flint, MI and a policy that they have adopted called "Shrink to Survive".

    I think the concept makes sense, but I worry that there is no community involvement at least that is the perception that I got from the article. Just a bunch of bureaucrats, in this case the county treasurer, making decisions for the uninformed masses.
    I recently did a webcast with Dan Kildee (the aforementioned Treasurer), who is instrumental in this program. That is not the idea I get at all. You can see his presentation on this topic here to judge for yourself; the presentation is waaaaay more in-depth than that linked arty above.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    The !sideyard" project seems excellent. Instead of an eysore next to your property you get a huge yard. Would one be able to expand their house/buildign into it? It seems to me that if the "sideyard" idea was applied aggressively, at some point you would attract fresh buyers, no?
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  5. #5
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca View post
    The !sideyard" project seems excellent. Instead of an eysore next to your property you get a huge yard. Would one be able to expand their house/buildign into it? It seems to me that if the "sideyard" idea was applied aggressively, at some point you would attract fresh buyers, no?
    That assumes an even distribution of abandonement. This is not the case. What is happening is that poorer neighborhoods with substandard housing are quicky getting worse and everyone is moving up one rung on the ladder. Eventually the next rung will fall into disrepair due to the disinvestment of either the landlord or because the property owner has bitten off more than they can chew, then that neighborhood will begin to show decay. This is what is currently happening in my neighborhood. Landlords have more interest in return than they have in their buildings. This depresses the land values of adjacent properties. Its becoming a terrible circle here in the industrial heartland.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Thanks for the responses

    Wayne and Dan:

    Thanks for the enlightening responses. I recently just started began pursuing a degree in Sustainable Energy Management here in Connecticut and I am hoping to go to grad school for sustainable development or architecture. I'm not sure as of yet but it took me this long to figure out what I wanted to do with myself I am going to take my time.

    Wayne, I really enjoyed reading your posts on Flint. I used to fish in Thread Lake as a child and have some fond memories of my time on the bank there. It is good to see that there is some community involvement and there are people like Heidi Phaneuf (I hope I spelled that right.) that are moving back within the city limits and trying to help from the inside. Flint has always been on someone's top 10 list for all the wrong reasons and I see this greening of America movement as an opportunity for these old Rustbelt communities to regain some of their former luster.

    When I see designs like the ones that were in Dan's presentation on the Alliance for Community Trees site, it fills me with hope. Livable, walkable, communities with greenspace...wow! I was really surprised to see that the concept is to go back to pre-WWII design. Can you elaborate on this for me? I really believe that sustainability basically means we will have to turn back the clock a bit, but how do you communicate this concept to the general public who have been force fed the concept of growth is good for so long that they think it is part of their religion?

    Speaking of religion, there are a lot of churches in Flint aren't there? There used to be 13 churches on one five mile strip of road where my old high school is and 13 liquor stores to boot. I wonder if the land bank has gotten over there yet.

    Regards,

    Brian

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Po3tree View post
    I think the concept makes sense, but I worry that there is no community involvement at least that is the perception that I got from the article. Just a bunch of bureaucrats, in this case the county treasurer, making decisions for the uninformed masses. I am all for tearing down blighted neighborhoods and abandoned properties, but build something there that will be beneficial for the community at large like orchards or gardens.
    In many cases, there is no longer a "community" to become involved. At least, that's the situation in parts of Buffalo where there are blocks and blocks of abandoned houses with only 1 or 2 occuppied units per block. Hopefully, Flint has reached that abyss yet.

    As for community orchards or gardens, who is going to spring for the plantings and maintenance? The community garden concept only works when there's a group of residents who plant and maintain the garden(s) as their own.

  8. #8
    Dan Staley's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    In many cases, there is no longer a "community" to become involved. At least, that's the situation in parts of Buffalo where there are blocks and blocks of abandoned houses with only 1 or 2 occuppied units per block. Hopefully, Flint has reached that abyss yet.

    As for community orchards or gardens, who is going to spring for the plantings and maintenance? The community garden concept only works when there's a group of residents who plant and maintain the garden(s) as their own.
    This is true, but we must ask whether this is permanent, and what can be done to make it impermanent.

    The first issue is who gets the responsibility for the parcels, and then the liability. Next is how are they designed for QOL. Next is what is their use, and who maintains the (presumably) gardens/landscapes/gathering places (Indianapolis is doing this now)?

    A recent issue of JAPA was dedicated solely to answering these questions, and hopefully soon I'll be collaborating with one of the authors on another aspect of urban design to get at a subset of some of these issues, to help clarify these problems and solution sets. Abandoned parcels and adaptive reuse isn't my area, so I can't speak to best practices, but I assure you folks are working on it, and these folks are smart and motivated.

    The overall adaptive reuse issue is related, surely, to the "local economy" thread currently going elsewhere on this forum, but it is also related to public service and jobs retraining. I recently attended a graduation ceremony for a jobs retraining program where Veterans were trained for weatherization and green building programs, and several large organizations traveled/are traveling here to understand the program's success for their own programs. Adaptive reuse and maintenance likely will be among them.

  9. #9
    It is another policy based on the American delusion that the earth's resources are inexhaustible and that everything was placed here by God for us to use up. The idea that we can keep expanding infrastructure outward while storing the used up land and poor people at the center is just stupid on every level.

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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    As for community orchards or gardens, who is going to spring for the plantings and maintenance? The community garden concept only works when there's a group of residents who plant and maintain the garden(s) as their own.
    It is more so about what you plant than who is going to pay for it in my opinion. We have to be able to rethink the old ways of doing business because they just aren't working. I'm for quality over quantity if need be, but if it is managed properly money should not be the main concern here.

  11. #11
    Beginning in the middle of the 19th century, many parts of rural New England were depopulated because farming could not compete with the Midwest. Over time, many of these abandoned farms regrew to forests and we have a much greater tree canopy today then we did two hundred years ago.

    Having only lived in vibrant cities all my life, the need to downsize cities is difficult to understand. I was in Detroit once, about 10 years ago and I couldn't believe the extent of abandonment even then. I can't conceive of what it must be like to live in places like that nor can I visualize what a solution should look like.

    Hopefully, a solution that is sustainable, healthy, and equitable can be brokered.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gotta Speakup View post
    Beginning in the middle of the 19th century, many parts of rural New England were depopulated because farming could not compete with the Midwest. Over time, many of these abandoned farms regrew to forests and we have a much greater tree canopy today then we did two hundred years ago.
    Having only lived in vibrant cities all my life, the need to downsize cities is difficult to understand. I was in Detroit once, about 10 years ago and I couldn't believe the extent of abandonment even then. I can't conceive of what it must be like to live in places like that nor can I visualize what a solution should look like.

    Hopefully, a solution that is sustainable, healthy, and equitable can be brokered.
    Reforestation is what has been happening over the last 80-100 years in most of Upstate NY as well. Areas that were pasture or crop land when I was growing up are now covered with second-growth forest. Parts of our own land that my father planted were threatening to go back to brush and scrub forest until my brother made a deal with an organic dairy farmer to use those fields for hay and pasture.

    Most advocates for land-banking advocate something similar in urban areas like Buffalo's East Side: take down the houses, rip out the streets, sidewalks, and utilities (or cap them and leave them there), and let the area revert to fields and/or forests.

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    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by steel View post
    It is another policy based on the American delusion that the earth's resources are inexhaustible and that everything was placed here by God for us to use up. The idea that we can keep expanding infrastructure outward while storing the used up land and poor people at the center is just stupid on every level.
    Whenever you're willing to come back to Buffalo and rebuild the East Side, you're welcome to do it since you are a Buffalo area native.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gotta Speakup View post
    Beginning in the middle of the 19th century, many parts of rural New England were depopulated because farming could not compete with the Midwest. Over time, many of these abandoned farms regrew to forests and we have a much greater tree canopy today then we did two hundred years ago.

    Having only lived in vibrant cities all my life, the need to downsize cities is difficult to understand. I was in Detroit once, about 10 years ago and I couldn't believe the extent of abandonment even then. I can't conceive of what it must be like to live in places like that nor can I visualize what a solution should look like.

    Hopefully, a solution that is sustainable, healthy, and equitable can be brokered.
    Have you ever been on a rollercoaster?
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  15. #15
    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    Whenever you're willing to come back to Buffalo and rebuild the East Side, you're welcome to do it since you are a Buffalo area native.
    This in not a Buffalo issue. It is an American arrogance and stupidity issue

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    Silly Americans

    Why does this issue have to be about American ignorance? People all over the world have been fed the same line of bull...Bigger is better, Growth at all costs. Maybe I am being naive here, but I see opportunity to make some sort of paradigm shift in consciousness. Where is the light in all this darkness? Tear it all down and plant a tree that will feed a hungry soul. I think something really amazing can come out of this concept if it's done in a way that will enrich the human condition instead of antagonizing it. Why not focus our energy on that?

    Great Kwame Kilpatrick quote DP. Did he convert to Islam while he was locked up?

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