A recent hot topic in the world of urban planning is the idea of tearing down portions of cities that are largely abandoned and blighted in order to contract the city’s size. The money for most of these projects would come from state or federal funds and the goal is to remove seldom-used infrastructure and save money on the future repairs thereof. Money would also be saved, and the rest of the city would benefit, from a plan like this because the police force and other emergency vehicles would have a smaller, more densely populated, area to patrol and not be stretched quite so thinly.
All in all, these benefits sound incredible. This recession could be seen as a punishment for expanding our nation’s growth so rapidly and unsustainably and this contraction of our cities looks like an answer.
However, I’m not so sure. To be clear, I’ve not yet decided my stance on any of this and I certainly don’t know enough about the subject to make my decision any time soon. All I can do is throw the Pros/Cons that I can see out there and hope something comes out of the comments that makes me think, and think hard.
So the “Pros” of this are already listed: improved policing of remaining neighborhoods, less money spent on repairs of aging infrastructure that is seldom-used anyway, better response times from emergency vehicles, and (hopefully) increased density in remaining neighborhoods to support self-policing and bring foot traffic to local businesses.
What would be done with this land, in these grand plans, would be to return the properties to nature. I’m not sure whether this’d be done through city-run reforestation efforts (which is happening in our own parks) or simply letting the land return on its own time (which could take around fifty years, according to Andrew).
However, the “Cons” are glaring. You’re taking away homes, destroying sites of future growth (i.e. the conversion of industrial spaces into affordable artists’ lofts or the refurbishment of Victorian mansions) disconnecting many neighborhoods from each other (series of “linked islands” may force car dependency on residents if public transportation isn’t varied and frequent) and, as Roberta Brandes Gratzpoints out in her LA Times piece, there hasn’t really been a history of positive effects of massive clearance
Right now, the debate rages between those flung to the far ends of the spectrum of opinion about this: either tear it all down and reforest it, or preserve all of it.
I think there’s a compromise to be found. I’ll post about it later, since this is getting a bit long-winded right now, but I’d like to hear your opinions on the pros/cons before that. Which side do you prefer, and why? And how do you think you would feel if it were in your own Rust Belt city of Allentown that this was happening?