Tag Archives: Next American City

Youngstown and HUD’s Shrinking Cities Lapse

Why can’t Youngstown redevelop its downtrodden neighborhoods the same way Philadelphia has?

Willy Staley asks Youngstown Community Organizer Phil Kidd this question in the latest issue of Next American City.

Phil Kidd, Youngstown advocate. Photo by Sean Posey. http://www.lightstalkers.org/sean-posey

Phil Kidd, Youngstown advocate. Photo by Sean Posey. http://www.lightstalkers.org/sean-posey

“The most straightforward, and obvious problem for cities in decline is the way that the Department of Housing and Urban Development doles out its funds,” Staley writes. “The grants are not competitive; cities must apply, but the size of the grant is determined by a formula.”

The formula is weighted by population, so as Youngstown bleeds population, its HUD money shrinks as well. Meanwhile, the destruction caused by vacancy and abandonment cries out for attention.

“CDBG is our lifeline,” says Kidd, “and we’re experiencing population decline and trying to plan accordingly for that but it requires a lot of planning and land use strategies, demolition…all these things that are not proportional to population.”

Worse, in cash-strapped cities like Youngstown, Community Development Block Grant dollars are often tapped to fill holes in the general fund budget.

The most recent community development money infusion, the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (a program of the economic stimulus package), capped the allowable portion spent on demolitions at 10 percent. This presents another obstacle in a city where vacant houses are driving neighborhood abandonment. Kidd says while local community development officials have been struggling to stabilize one neighborhood, another has been hemorrhaging population at a rate of 435 percent.

As a solution, Youngstown’s Congressman Tim Ryan has been championing the Community Regeneration, Sustainability and Innovation Act, which would make federal grants available to communities with innovative solutions for the problem of widespread vacancy and abandonment.

Read the articles for yourself:

Part one

Part two



Filed under Headline, Politics, Real Estate, The Big Urban Photography Project, The Housing Crisis, Urban Planning

Lansing, Michigan Recycles Old School Buildings


Interesting post on the Next American City web site about high-tech firms in Lansing, Michigan converting old school buildings– “Thanks to their expansive plumbing systems, large spaces and impervious surfaces that allow for easy cleanup, the old schools are perfect lab settings,” one user told the magazine.

Furthermore, “Not only are these companies revitalizing the region’s economy by providing jobs, they’re also revitalizing neighborhoods. Unlike many newer schools that sit off of highway exits or in the middle of fields, Lansing’s old school buildings are smack in the middle of neighborhoods,” according to the story.

This story caught my eye because I remember there were a number of older, unused school buildings in Toledo. They would have been perfect for senior housing, a community center, or projects like the ones described in this article.


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Filed under architecture, Art, Economic Development, Good Ideas, Green Jobs, Headline, Public Education, Real Estate, regionalism, The Media, Urban Planning

Urban podcasting

Check out the new Metro Matters podcast, from the folks at Next American City magazine and the Brookings Institution.

If you listen to this inaugural edition, you can hear about everything from the stimulus, to US exports, Richard Florida and manufacturing. There’s a good bit of Rust-Belt related discussion as well.


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Filed under Good Ideas, regionalism, The Media

Check out Next American City


My latest issue of the magazine Next American City arrived in the mail on Monday.

I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but so far I enjoyed two interesting articles:

one on the problems with publicly funded convention centers for cities;

and the cover story on Newark mayor Cory Booker.

I don’t think these articles are online – if they are I haven’t found them – so you may have to step away from your computers for a minute and buy the magazine.



Filed under Politics

Detroit: Schools, urban farms, and a conversation

I’ve been meaning to post several Detroit-related items this week:

First, earlier this week, the Detroit papers reported that the city’s public schools are in serious trouble – even more serious trouble than usual.


“After months of financial projections, independent audits and declarations of financial emergency, the state-appointed financial manager for Detroit Public Schools submitted a report to the state today that paints a historically dire problem,” the Free Press reported.

It gets worse – “DPS will have to cut thousands of jobs and close as many as 50 schools over the next two years because the district has accumulated a $305-million deficit. And it should have seen the problem coming months ago, said Robert Bobb, the financial manager. The crisis could lead to more cries for mayoral control of the school system, a solution advocated by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.”

It’s a pretty depressing state of affairs. The health of cities is completely intertwined with the health of their public schools systems, plain and simple. And everything I read about the Detroit Public Schools (and many other urban school systems) paints such a terrible picture it is hard to imagine anything ever getting better. I know that’s a bad attitude to have; obviously the schools didn’t get this way overnight. But it’s still so overwhelming to think about.

So after that depressing item, here is something more hopeful:


A Detroit businessman has put forth a proposal that would “convert hundreds, even thousands, of vacant parcels in the city into urban agriculture,” the Free Press reports.

“Detroit already is home to hundreds of smaller community gardens. But Hantz’s proposal is the first to envision large-scale commercial farming.”

The article goes on to detail how foreclosed city, county, and state-owned properties could be used. Not everyone is in favor of this. One community-garden advocate pointed out that smaller gardens to a lot to bring communities together, as opposed to a large, commercial operation. But it’s an intriguing idea, and I hope we haven’t heard the last of it!

Thanks to Rust Wire reader Claudia Raleigh for bringing this item to my attention!

Finally, I want to plug an event that is happening in Detroit on Wednesday evening.

The magazine Next American City is hosting a conversation about the economy and how Detroit is working to reposition itself. It is part of the magazine’s Great Minds Great Cities Urban Nexus series.

It’s open to the public if anyone is interested in going. I can’t make it, so if any of you Rust Wire readers in Detroit want to go and report back what happens, it would be much appreciated! For more details on the when, where, and who, click here:



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Filed under Green Jobs, Urban Farming