Tag Archives: Atlanta

Historic Preservation: Move it to Save it?


You may have already seen this USA Today story on a suburban Atlanta congregation that wants to purchase a closed Buffalo church, take it apart, ship it to Georgia and rebuild it there.

Some groups say it is a great way to preserve an otherwise vacant and unused structure. (The Diocese closed the church in 2008 because of declining enrollment – an issue many of our cities have faced that we’ve written about on this blog before.) You can see the web site for the parish that wants to bring the church south here. (Take a look- it truly is a beautiful building.)

Others say this Southern parish is pillaging Buffalo’s architectural treasures. The story quotes David Franczyk, president of the Buffalo city council: “Build your own church. We have enough vacant lots.” He compares the idea to Imperialists taking the Elgin marbles from Greece. It could also hurt Buffalo as the city strives to become a destination for those interested in the arts and architecture.

There’s a healthy debate going on at one of our favorite blogs, Buffalo Rising.

Maybe the fact that another community wants this so badly they are willing to pay millions of dollars to move it 900 miles will be a wake-up call to some in Buffalo to find another use for the building and preserve it there.

One thing’s for sure: they don’t build ’em like this anymore!

What do you think?



Filed under architecture, Art, Economic Development, Headline, regionalism, Rust Belt Blogs

New Urban Ideal: Young, Progressive and White?

Portland. Seattle. Minneapolis. Besides being magnets for well-educated young people, what do these cities have in common?

According to Aaron Renn, creator of the Urbanophile blog, they all have a relatively low proportion of black people.

In an article published on New Geography, Renn asks, is the trend towards cities like Portland a form of nationwide suburban sprawl?

A city scene in Portland. No black people to be found.

A city scene in Portland.

Is it only a coincidence that cities with a high proportion of black residents are so often the most maligned, like Detroit, Cleveland and Youngstown?

If you’ve ever read the Urbanophile (and if you haven’t, you should), you’ll notice that Aaron is a great creator of charts.

He has developed some pretty convincing data to back up his argument.


Portland and Seattle: 6% black. Austin: 8%. Denver: 10%.

I think Aaron has a point and this is an issue that doesn’t get the play it deserves in most of our discussions. Because racial issues and racial tensions shape our cities and our country profoundly, though not as overtly as they once did. This is especially true in the industrial Midwest.

On the other hand, there are some notable exceptions to Aaron’s rule. Atlanta, for one. New York and Chicago for another.

While I think Aaron has a point, I think the socioeconomic vestiges of a pattern of discrimination in housing, finance and education may be influencing residential decisions more than race at this point, or at least playing an increasingly strong role. The history of racial turmoil in Cleveland and Detroit and Chicago are still very ingrained in the cultural consciousness. In these cities, and the two events that had the greatest impact were the race riots and forced school integration, or busing.

Older generations in Cleveland are still programmed to the “us vs. them” turf battles between ethnic groups and blacks that played out the cities neighborhoods in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Last week, a professor of mine mentioned that his friend still refuses to drive through the Hough neighborhood, where riots took place in the ’70s, out of fear. My 47-year-old mother, a Toledo native, recently told me that every time she hears about Detroit, she thinks about the riots and how scary a place it’s always seemed.

Meanwhile a discriminatory education system continues to drive middle-class families out of the central city of Cleveland. Ohio’s Supreme Court has rules the state’s education funding system unconstitutional four times and still no relief for inner-city families.

So what’s the difference between Detroit and Cleveland and Chicago and New York? Well, not nearly as much as now until the ’90s when Chicago and New York began pushing minorities to the periphery, while in Cleveland and Detroit, whites continued their migration outward. While there is some concern about “rings of poverty” and endemic violence on Chicago’s South Side, studies have shown that cities where wealth trended inward perform better economically than where wealth flowed outward.

That said, I certainly wouldn’t call Chicago a model for racial integration.

Anyway it’s an interesting article and Aaron brings up a good point. I think these issues are very complicated, however. Everyone wants to be the journalist that pinpoints exactly what’s wrong with Detroit or Cleveland, when the truth is, cities are very dynamic places with a multitude of different forces at play.

Any input?

St. Louis? Youngstown? Memphis? Camden?



Filed under Featured, Race Relations

Can an Oil Crisis Save the Rust Belt?

Christopher Steiner’s new book $20 Per Gallon is an interesting read. The book’s thesis is that oil and gasoline prices will appreciate over time. Not just to $4 per gallon like we saw last summer, but significantly higher as supply dwindles and demand continues to pick up steam. It’s not all bad news, though. One potential revival that Steiner points to is the resurgence of Rust Belt cities; some of the same cities that have been badly struggling over the past few years.

AP Oil at 120

Admittedly, it’s a plausible theory. Rust Belt cities developed infrastructure long before car culture dominated our society and sprawl was how “normal” people lived. These cities were densely populated and designed to support a lifestyle around walkability and community. They thrived before sprawl was an option, and they can thrive again when sprawl is no longer an option.

Once oil prices pass a certain threshold, it will no longer be about preference. Whether or not people prefer to live in exurban subdivisions or downtown lofts won’t matter. How affordable those places will become will drive decision making. In such an environment, no metro areas have better opportunities for urban growth than those in the Rust Belt.

Consider that the city of Cleveland has lost over 50% of its population since its peak. The city could essentially double in size and still not be any larger than it historically has been. A similar story holds for Saint Louis (60% loss), Buffalo (52% loss), Cincinnati (34% loss) and Baltimore (33% loss). Contrast this with Atlanta, Dallas, and Phoenix, which currently face population at their all-time highs. Not only that, but new Sun Belt cities were planned, designed, and built like pseudo-suburbs, so converting them to the same level of density as older cities will prove challenging.

Cheering for rapidly appreciating oil prices isn’t a very popular thing to do. I’m not sure it’s an economically responsible thing to do either. But my faith in the revitalization of Rust Belt cities on their own merits is fragile. Maybe some of them will prove able to successfully turn around regardless of oil prices. Others might not. No doubt, Rust Belt cities are well positioned for an oil crisis. The question is how soon it will come, how rapidly it will occur, and how smart Rust Belt leaders will be about it.

Rob Pitingolo


Filed under the environment, Urban Planning

Dayton Loses 1,250 Jobs, Only Remaining Fortune 500 Company

Boy, this is so depressing, I can hardly bring myself to write it. Dayton’s sole remaining Fortune 500 company, which has been headquartered in the city for 125 years, is moving operations to Atlanta.

NCR, a manufacturer of ATM machines and cash registers, will bring some 2,000 jobs to Atlanta. The company was offered $60 million in tax breaks by the state of Georgia, The Dayton Daily News reports. Ohio attempted a counter offer of $31 million, to which CEO Bill Nuti responded “It pales in comparison to what Georgia is giving.” He also thanked Dayton for all its years of support.


This is all lifted from the DDN: The company was founded as the National Cash Register Co. in 1884. Founder John Patterson also started the Dayton Chamber of Commerce. At one time, NCR employed nearly 60,000 people in Ohio.

Boy, that is really going to sting.


Filed under Economic Development, Featured

Photo Tour: Cleveland’s Abandoned Subway

Cleveland is one of many Rust Belt cities that once operated a subway system. Twice a year, they open it up for tours and also hold an art show inside.


The subway closed in 1954, according to The Plain Dealer.


You can see here where it has been sealed off.


About 1,400 people attend these tours semi-annually.


My friend, Greg Ruffing, Cleveland’s finest freelance photographer, donated these amazing photos.



I heard Cincinnati has a subway that was never finished. Also, Atlanta, Georgia, uses their defunct subway lines as a mall.


This looks like a really neat event.


Filed under Featured, The Big Urban Photography Project