Wednesday, July 27, 2011

North American Blog #1

In the context of our discussion about post-industrial cities in North America, what is the role of planning in addressing issues of urban decline caused by demographic and economic change?

Time line: please reply by 9 August 2011.


  1. Cities have life cycles that are often heavily dependent on global economic factors. Planners cannot always control global economic forces but are rather left to manage its effects. For example the auto industry collapse in Detroit.

    An interesting planning issue in Detroit is turning unoccupied suburban blocks into green spaces. Land and property acquisition is always a controversial issue but think in declining urban areas it is better to concentrate the remaining population to retain a sense of vibrancy in the community

    City leaders need to be prepared to take risks when dealing with urban decline. Continuing with a 'business as usual' attitude will likely see urban decline continue

    Andrew Moore 1197247

  2. Wayne Feiden, emphasized the pivotal role Planners play in post-industrial cities’ by allowing them to “shrink in a healthy and graceful manner”.

    Planners must be the positive agents of change and look for ways to utilize existing physical and social infrastructure to ensure the city retains a lively environment.

    Planners of a post-industrial city find “grass roots” solutions such as re-painting main street or holding community events in vacant buildings to bring people into the area and encourage them to spend money.

    Planners of post-industrial cities that are in decline need to accept the situation, look for the benefits and create strategies for a city in decline, which allow the city to retain a relevantly high standard of living.

    Rhezza Layco

  3. Planners need to balance between listening to people within the community to gain important information about what they want and acting as an advocate for their needs. Whilst listening to a community is important it is also necessary to sometimes take risks, to ensure that urban decline does not continue. This might include making radical shifts in the way that the city operates, which may not be what the community wants at the time but will have a significantly positive impact in the future. This was not the case in New Orleans as we learnt in the previous lecture; the mayor at the time did not want to take a risk and instead chose to spread money out in a way that wasn’t rational. Instead of spending money on developing the city as to what it was before the hurricane (an already declining neighborhood), investment could have been made a few areas to make them really great. Planning needs to encourage this type of risk taking to ensure urban areas thrive.

    Sarah MacCormick 1076891 (smac181)

  4. In my opinion, the role of planning and planners in this context is concerned with coping with ‘change.’ The planning profession and its processes are always concerned with the concept of ‘change’ either anticipating it or, if anticipation fails, responding to change. In the context of the discussion about post-industrial cities in North America, the main theme that came across in class was about regeneration of place since urban decline and almost creating another dimension to a place to revive its existence. Ultimately, the role of planning in these situations is to ‘re-establish’ ailing areas and the Port Angeles example used in class best represents how it is not solely up to planning processes for this regeneration to occur, but also a responsibility of a planner to facilitate a response to change within a community, which leads to a positive result.

    Jayesh Parekh 1141710 (jpar378)

  5. Also looking at the above comments, I agree with Sarah on the aspect that risk taking is a factor that needs to be further focused on, although it may possibly have negative impacts. This idea reminds me of the 'black swan' concept where patterns are formed as a response to policy and its end result is difficult to anticipate, as to when it could occur. I think in this case the question may be, how can risks be better calculated to avoid significant negative impacts?

    Jayesh Parekh 1141710 (jpar378)

  6. In most of the post-industrial cities in North America, such as New Orleans, Port Angeles, and Pittsburgh, planning takes a priority role in taking participate in solving the issues caused by demographic and economic changes, such as some key issues of economic decline, outdated port, emigration of local residents. In response to the issues, governments in America have taken up the challenges and solved the issues of those areas which were abandoned, and have redeveloped them successfully. They seek for various opportunities to work with all the participants in broad area such as politicians, experts and the public; they seek ways to increase local economy of those places, such as by developing tourism industry in Port Angeles and building light rail system in Tampa; and they attempts to take a strategic approach of building its own vision for driving action in long term and in an effective way.

    Xinyue Wang 1181130 xwan266

  7. In the cases of Port Angeles and Bittsburgh, planner's role is focus on communication and mitigation with others, which include local communities, interest groups, business companies, relevant institutions and the Council. To redevelop these post-industrial cities in North America, planners have to know the needs of the people in that area in the first place. To help local residents get involved in the decision making process is essential for planners to start their work. To achieve the outcomes, the input from other agencies is also necessary. Planners have to find the opportunities to form partnership with the Councils and other groups and individuals and to find ways to maximise their input of the project. Our Community at Work project in Port Angeles is an outstanding example, all community members and local business and the Council work together to improve amenity value of the town, which not only promote the economic development by attracting visitors but also strength the community. Planners can be inspired from this, to work effectively with outside and inside of the community to benefit both of them.

    Yiwei Zou 1005356

  8. Jethro jjof001 48923213

    jethro jjof001 4893213

    Andrews comment earlier about cities having life cycles is very true, hisotry has shown that even the most expansive cities have over been decipated due to economic and global politics to which planners have no control over. Furthermore a Planners role may become to help establish the opportunities resulting from urban decline to optimise in gentrification and redvelopment. This is often the most challenging and rewarding aspect of Planning where a more immediate effect can be seen, rather then waiting half a century for some policy to not really give effect to your objective (district Plans in Auckland). On another note, I found this interesting statistic on wikipedia showing the change in growth patterns in the United States over 10 decades or so, which relates strongly to the lecture and shows the dynamic changes in urban environments and economic drivers....

  9. Simon Andrew 1279947

    While planners may not have the power to influence changing democratic and economic forces, it is there role to understand these conditions by analysing trends and conceptualising creative sustainable development solutions.

    It is essential for planners to understand how they should operate within a shrinking city, whilst working with policy makers, citizens and businesses. In doing so, population lose can be effectively managed in a manner that entails sustainable physical change.

    In Detroit, a weak market and an abundance of vacant land generated significant opportunities that involved transforming land for agricultural use, as well as for green networks. Capitalizing on democratic and economic decline by setting aside land for recreation, agriculture and green areas not only benefits existing residents, but also attract future development. It also provides shrinking cities with an opportunity to reinvent themselves as a more advantageous, sustainable and ecologically thriving places.

    It is the planner’s role to respond to crises such as these by examining imaginative ways for cities to successfully shrink.

  10. It is true that Planners have no control over demographic and economic changes. However, planners have an important role as a facilitator of change. Planners need to accommodate change and growth as well as think of creative ways to cope with the challenges that comes with declining cities. From the lecture, we have discussed the challenges with shrinking post-industrial cities.

    A planner’s role is vital in making sure suitable and sustainable redevelopment occurs (such as the redevelopments of Brownfield sites in New Orleans), being the voice of the community, advocating their vision while also balancing the needs of different people and importantly, being able to implement their ideas. I think the project in Port Angeles, Our Community At Work was a good example of good planning in a post industrial city. The collaborative activity of redesigning and painting buildings to make them more attractive was a simple way of putting life and vibrancy back into the declining city.

    Angela Taganahan (atag007) – 1215556

  11. I think as planners we have a really tough job. Andrew made a crucial point here, cities are always changing and Planners are basically left to manage the effects of the changes. It is how we work with current policy of an area, to help the city adapt to the changes or urban decline. I agree with Sarah in cities needing to take the risk.. and New Orleans was a special case, but with the growing number of natural hazards.. Is it so silly to take new Orleans as a strong example?

    In terms of economic and demographic issues.. Planners have a role in that - the city will change, and the better prepared and the better solutions that they come up with - the less damaging these declines will be.

    Hannah Good 1229712

  12. As always planners seem to be caught between the role of 'being the voice of the neighbourhood' and being the implementers of change within those same neighbourhoods.

    In a situation of decline caused by demographic and economic change, planners must facilitate the adaptation to this decline, bridging the gap between politicians and the everyday person. With this unique role I feel that while planners are obligated to take risk and push forward with ideas to create "graceful shrinking" they must take time to explain and reason with those that are likely to lose their neighbourhoods.

    This is especially important when solutions such as Detroit's 'Urban Agriculture' are suggested, the idea of concentrating residents to ensure functioning neighbourhoods is in theory great, until the family home of several generations has to be demolished. It is here that planners must fulfil both roles of revolutionary and understanding the everyday citizen.

    Samuel Foster 1231978, sfos028

  13. My first thoughts when looking at this question was the urban decline that occured within many urban central areas as the rich moved out of the central areas to the periphery of city centres to lead both an urban and relaxed suburban life (suburbanisation). The rise of the automobile powered this change as the rich could afford to drive to work or take public transport to work while the poor had to settle for the central areas that were being fled by the middle-high income earners. When the rich leave, generally so does the services, the infrastructure etc and we end up with urban areas that are visually and socially derelict. As planners we need to realise that change, either economic or demographic,(usually the two go hand in hand) has the potential to create urban decline. The Detroit example provides what can happen when change ocurs. So as planners i think we need to understand how to get areas out of such decline. Whether it is done through social, community based approaches, or environmental approaches - open space and New Urbanism, or even through historical strengths or contemporary, new found strengths that are inherent within any area. Analysis of other areas that have come out of decline and there struggles can help planners. Most importantly we have to learn to work with people rather than for them.

    Steven Sanson
    ssan075 1264497

  14. to me i think a the planner's role in the context of urban decline is to manage and maintain the identity of the city, which i think is most easily lost when people start to leave. to be able to maintain such a identity would allow the city to have a pull factor that help it to retain its population. i think therefore the role of planner in a declining city is to create, maintain and maximize the identity of the city.
    Alex Han

  15. As many people above have pointed out, demographic and economic change is something that planners can control. It is a phenomenon that occurs and planners need to adapt to that change.

    In North America, some places have addressed the economic and demographic decline more "gracefully" than others. In places such as Pittsburgh, where there has been graceful decline due to taking advantage of its existing infrastructure and education, it is facing decline but the environment is still vibrant. Similar to New York city, from the outside it seems like the same the same city it has always been, busy, healthy and growing city. But in reality, it is also facing economic and demographic decline.
    The success stories show the importance of sustainable building and adaptability.

    Places such as New Orleans are poor cities with very little to begin with. These places are the worst affected in times of economic and demographic decline. The role of planning is to learn from what went right and what went wrong in different situations. They need to work with communities to achieve a common vision. This vision should be directed towards healthy and growing cities in a sustainable manner. There need to be a balance of both action and strategy to ensure desirable outcomes.

    Tin Lo 1066001

  16. It is deeply ironic that the car which was the instrument of Detroit’s success was the double-edged sword that caused its later decline. The loss of the automobile industry as the economic backbone of the city was followed by a significant population shrink. The car as the cause of unsustainable suburban sprawl has left vast stretches of suburbs de-populated. The wider global economic processes that triggered this are immense issues for planners to address. These include the de-industrialisation of America, globalisation, and the industrialisation of the developing world through post-colonial processes. However the lots, warehouses, and homes that were left abandoned by footloose firms have provided the opportunity and (spatial) space to seek a new sustainable vision for Detroit. This demonstrates that planners have a role to play in empowering creative grassroots initiatives, not hindering them. Detroit contains many good examples of moving a city towards local food security and greening of the concrete jungle.

    See this website for examples:

    Melanie Cripps

  17. While some cities grow, others shrink. Planning has to accommodate these changes of growth and decline. However wether it is to do with the growing or shrinking of population in a city the underlying issue, Planning and Planners must address is that of equity.
    I agree with those who said that Planners don't have much control over decline or changes in demography or economy, however planners have a part to play in assisting and facilitating how these changes maybe reflected onto the physical and social environment of the city.
    As Fieden highlighted in the lecture, the important role of planners is to be the voice of the neighbourhood and implementing community's vision, not dictating to people what needs to happen. With the community's vision in mind however, the goal is not to grow in size, but rather to get the city to "shrink in a graceful way". In other words, to maintain or improve on the health and vitality of existing community, providing choices and opportunities for everyone be it through provision of amenities or holding community events, activities or exhibits. Also, there must be a level of acceptance in planning when dealing with changes, especially with decline. In addressing this, planners have to work with what they have and find simple but creative ways of moving forward towards achieving the vision of the community.

    Abigail Arias

  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. As pointed out by others, planners role is primarily based around accepting, responding and adapting to change. Urban decline is more than often underpinned by changes in the dynamics of capitalism. This results in social problems such as, social disparities, unemployment and lower wage levels, diminishing social standards (decline is self-esteem and self-identity, inclusive).
    But just because an area is suffering from population and economic decline, doesn't mean it has to let these social problems take over, and physically degrade.
    Like Sarah commented on, planners initial role is to consult, work with and ensure participation of residents. To add to this, people will act and make decisions based on who they associate with, and values and norms that they acquire. So interaction and inclusion, as well as understanding 'cultural communities' is essential for planners to work successfully as a facilitator.
    Community consultation will enable planners to formulate a vision and strategy that best responds to the needs and concerns of the residents. Thus, analysing historic and unique characteristics that need be maintained, potential comparative advantages (e.g. resident talent e.g. artist's) and diversification of the areas economy to be established (and bought into effect), and rebuilding the area/city on a smaller scale. This last point will mainly be focussed around the implications associated with larger infrastructure, as it will no longer be feasible to have highways for example to every part of the area/city.

    Sophie Elwood

  20. Post-industrial cities in places like North America facing issues of urban decline or ‘shrinking’ require planners primarily that are able to cope with this change in a way that will minimise the adverse effects left for the city to bear, and take control of matters, so communities are affected in the least possible way. Being able to keep a city or a community feeling vibrant and giving people a sense of place is important, so that the population, and the economy following on from this ‘identity’, is retained as much as possible.

    Cities constantly change, some grow, some shrink. A planner’s role is to accommodate for all these changes, while implementing the community’s vision, and not ignoring the respective communities. For example in Tampa, there used to be a focus on making plans more comprehensive, now it is on how to get the public involved in the process (such as the consultation processes that Sophie. E has discussed). Planning must find a balance between the short term ‘actions’ to take, and the ‘long term’ plans to keep in mind.

    Deanne D’souza (ID: 1072559)

  21. In my perspective, the demographic and economic changes caused urban decline issue are mainly driven by the market / political failures. Sure I agree with others, the planners have no power to control the changes, however, the planners’ role is to recognise the internal factors of the changes and to provide adaptations for the changes. When proposing the adaptations, the planners also have the role to explain the constraints to the decision-maker so that the adaptations can address the most critical issues. In North America cities, globalisation driven urban decline requires the planners to re-recognise the future opportunity of the area and thus the sustainable development can be carried out and to ensure that the decline will not happen easily in the future.

    Xiaoyu Shi