US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive
Tom Leonard, Telegraph.co.uk, June 12, 2009
The US government is looking at expanding a pioneering scheme in Flint, one of the poorest US cities, which involves razing entire districts and returning the land to nature.
Local politicians believe the city must contract by as much as 40%, concentrating the dwindling population and local services into a more viable area.
The radical experiment is the brainchild of Dan Kildee, treasurer of Genesee County, which includes Flint. Mr Kildee has now been approached by the US government and a group of charities who want him to apply what he has learned to the rest of the country.
Mr Kildee said he will concentrate on 50 cities, identified in a recent study by the Brookings Institution as potentially needing to shrink substantially to cope with their declining fortunes, including Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Memphis.
Karina Pallagst, director of the Shrinking Cities in a Global Perspective program at UC Berkeley, said there was "both a cultural and political taboo" about admitting decline in America. "Places like Flint have hit rock bottom. They're at the point where it's better to start knocking a lot of buildings down," she said.
Flint, 60 miles north of Detroit, was the original home of General Motors. The car giant once employed 79,000 local people but that figure has shrunk to around 8,000. Unemployment is now approaching 20% and the total population has almost halved to 110,000.
The local authority has restored the city's attractive but formerly deserted center but has pulled down 1,100 abandoned homes in outlying areas. Mr Kildee estimated another 3,000 needed to be demolished, although the city boundaries will remain the same. Already, some streets peter out into woods or meadows, no trace remaining of the homes that once stood there. The city is buying up houses in more affluent areas to offer people in neighborhoods it wants to demolish. Nobody will be forced to move, said Mr Kildee.
"Much of the land will be given back to nature. People will enjoy living near a forest or meadow," he said.
Read the complete story here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financetopics/financialcrisis/5516536/US-cities-may-have-to-be-bulldozed-in-order-to-survive.html