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  #1  
Old Posted Nov 8, 2019, 5:08 AM
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What if Detroit, Chicago (and other Northern cities) never fell?

This just popped into my head today. These topics are interesting and I can’t say no to them.

But just thinking, most of the top 10 American cities in the 1950s were Northern cities that were at their peak. Detroit had 1.8 million, Chicago had 3 million. I’m sure Cleveland, Boston, Philly, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and other cities had more then than they do now. Even DC was close to a million at 800,000-ish back then.


Fast forward now, it seems that only NYC has surpassed its peak then. Most of the aforementioned cities are now past that era. I think Minneapolis and a few others are exceptions?

But, what if those cities had continued to grow or just only experienced a small transient decline like NYC in the 70s and kept chugging along? What if Detroit adapted to the changes in the auto industry and the racism that led to its decline? What if Chicago still maintained its complete image as the Second city and still kept an edge over LA (or at least stayed close behind it if the latter still proved to be high growth at the time)?

Two different scenarios could be considered.

-Much of the population in those cities gradually moved south to the Sunbelt, so one scenario could be that this could happen at the expense of those current high growth areas.

-Another scenario could be that the Sunbelt could still grow to its current scale today via migration from the Northern cities, but immigration during the late 20th century could have been large enough to maintain and supersede the urban population peaks of the 50s.



Either way, I believe this would have been significant. Most of the urban renewal projects may have been avoided, saving countless pre-war neighborhoods. We as a country probably would have been more aware of Canada then we are now, with more Americans living next to the border in this alternate reality. We would probably have a large mass of cities that could compete with the excellence that is the European continent. Who the hell knows where we would be.


So, what do y’all think would have happened if this was our reality?
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  #2  
Old Posted Nov 8, 2019, 5:34 AM
ThePhun1 ThePhun1 is offline
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How has Chicago ever fallen? It's stagnated maybe.
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  #3  
Old Posted Nov 8, 2019, 6:45 AM
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They would still be major economic and employment centers thus stymying migration to warner states. If New York had a healthy economy, it wouldn't have hemorrhaged so many people to Florida and the Carolinas and still be number two in population. Instead of 4th.
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  #4  
Old Posted Nov 8, 2019, 8:04 AM
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Originally Posted by jd3189 View Post

So, what do y’all think would have happened if this was our reality?
You're assuming all the changes would have been positive. I think the situation would be much the same as it is now.

--Most of the population moved to the suburbs not to other states. So, the Midwest would just have become a land of endless urban sprawl if the population had continued growing.

--After the Great Depression, wartime rationing, severe overcrowding and segregation, the housing in poorer neighborhoods, especially for minorities, was in appalling condition long before population loss occurred. It would have been destroyed one way or another. The projects seemed like paradise by comparison.

--Many of the housing projects predated population decline. Construction of the Cabrini-Green Homes, for example, began during WWII. Some public housing was built as early as the 1930s.

--The loss of manufacturing and consequent population loss gave many Midwest cities a chance at environmental rehabilitation as a consolation. The Chicago South Side has several industrial locations that now serve as wildlife areas

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=atV6ty...e&index=2&t=0s

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TZCGXMcNKvg

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=g_zaVeeJLeA

--Even if growth had remained in the city proper there's no guarantee that old architecture would have been saved. Both economic decline and reckless growth often result in the loss of architectural treasures. A slower rate of growth can help a city better understand potential drawbacks and benefits of new architecture and urban planning ideas.
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  #5  
Old Posted Nov 8, 2019, 9:58 AM
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About what Detroit could be, I opened a thread to discuss this in long ago:

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Originally Posted by yuriandrade View Post
What if?

(...)

I asked myself: what if some metro areas kept the same share they used to have in previous decades, in the 2010 US total population? I've chosen 1940, 1950, 1960 and 1970, as most of very important US cities peaked (in relative terms) in one of those years:


1940
Detroit ----------- 6,934,000
Pittsburgh -------- 6,246,000
Cleveland -------- 4,776,000
St. Louis --------- 4,162,000
Cincinnati -------- 2,794,000
Buffalo ----------- 2,769,000
Scranton-Wilkes -- 1,923,000
Rochester -------- 1,633,000
Youngstown ------ 1,318,000
Toledo ----------- 1,186,000
Wheeling ----------- 898,000


1950
Detroit ----------- 7,675,000
Pittsburgh -------- 5,730,000
Cleveland -------- 4,931,000
St. Louis --------- 4,137,000
Cincinnati -------- 2,782,000
Buffalo ----------- 2,723,000
Rochester -------- 1,572,000
Scranton-Wilkes -- 1,482,000
Youngstown ------ 1,281,000
Toledo ----------- 1,179,000
Wheeling ----------- 763,000


1960
Detroit ----------- 8,142,000
Cleveland -------- 5,261,000
Pittsburgh -------- 5,159,000
St. Louis --------- 4,100,000
Cincinnati -------- 2,878,000
Buffalo ----------- 2,698,000
Rochester -------- 1,559,000
Youngstown ------ 1,281,000
Toledo ----------- 1,164,000
Scranton-Wilkes -- 1,136,000
Wheeling ----------- 648,000


1970
Detroit ----------- 8,166,000
Cleveland -------- 5,097,000
Pittsburgh -------- 4,535,000
St. Louis --------- 4,035,000
Cincinnati -------- 2,757,000
Buffalo ----------- 2,455,000
Rochester -------- 1,633,000
Youngstown ------ 1,173,000
Toledo ----------- 1,111,000
Scranton-Wilkes -- 1,000,000
Wheeling ----------- 556,000


(...)
If Detroit had grown on the same pace than the US till today (it used to grow faster than the national average before the 1960's), it would have 8.2 million people in 2010 or 9.3 million including Toledo or even more capturing neighbouring counties that might have been captured by this bigger Detroit metro area.
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  #6  
Old Posted Nov 8, 2019, 1:58 PM
Tuckerman Tuckerman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yuriandrade View Post
About what Detroit could be, I opened a thread to discuss this in long ago:



If Detroit had grown on the same pace than the US till today (it used to grow faster than the national average before the 1960's), it would have 8.2 million people in 2010 or 9.3 million including Toledo or even more capturing neighbouring counties that might have been captured by this bigger Detroit metro area.
Such discussion reminds me of the old history question: "What if Napoleon had had a B-52?"
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  #7  
Old Posted Nov 8, 2019, 2:28 PM
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i don't think the "flyover" slur would be what it is. a heftier, more urban midwest would have been a better america.
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  #8  
Old Posted Nov 8, 2019, 2:36 PM
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When it comes down to it, there were two - and in some cases three - different things that contributed to the decline of core cities in the North.

Generalized suburbanization: There was tremendous pent-up demand for housing during the Great Depression and World War II, which would have to have been answered during the period of 1946-1960 no matter what. Even in other countries there was a similar building boom during this period, although in some cases this boom was a bit denser and more transit friendly. And the reason this decline impacted the Northeast/Midwest and not the South/West was mostly because old-line cities ended up surrounded by incorporated suburbs which grabbed the growth, while in the South/West city limits tended to expand to snap up the new suburbs. Old-line urban neighborhoods - where they existed - tended to decline just like in the Northeast/Midwest. So, this period was inevitable.

White flight: This would be the easiest thing to avoid. While a lot of other countries experienced the generalized suburbanization outlined above (particularly Canada and Australia) they didn't experience white flight from the urban cores, which remained largely intact. It's also worth noting within the U.S. that the cities least affected by white flight - places like Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Denver - experienced relatively little in the way of blight and tended to recover faster. I don't think it's feasible to avoid white flight without somehow getting rid of the Second Great Migration however. The easiest way to do this would be if the U.S. liberalized immigration policy again post World War II (instead of waiting till 1965) allowing for a mass of postwar European immigrants to staff the growing factories, leaving fewer job opportunities for blacks in the North.

Decline of the Rust Belt: Certain northern cities experienced particular declines related to the destruction of their primary industries, like auto and steel. This was notably different than the other two, because it tended to be felt across the entire metropolitan area, not just the core city. Really this didn't get rolling until the mid 1970s to early 1980s however, which means it was a later process than the "cities going to hell." I think it's plausible any number of cities could have recovered from this earlier. I mean, Boston and NY suffered an earlier industry-related collapse related to the decline of the textile industries (which mostly moved to the South before they moved overseas) and diversified their economies quite well. But not every metropolitan area can be a winner.
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  #9  
Old Posted Nov 8, 2019, 2:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ThePhun1 View Post
How has Chicago ever fallen?
chicago hasn't fallen.

in fact, it has actually risen, at least in the literal sense.

53 new towers over 500' have been built over the past two decades (a 42% increase)!

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Last edited by Steely Dan; Nov 8, 2019 at 5:50 PM.
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Old Posted Nov 8, 2019, 2:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tuckerman View Post
Such discussion reminds me of the old history question: "What if Napoleon had had a B-52?"
There are whole forum about it (Alternate History), in fact much bigger than SSP.
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  #11  
Old Posted Nov 8, 2019, 3:00 PM
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Those cities would have more rapid transit.


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  #12  
Old Posted Nov 8, 2019, 3:03 PM
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many "rustbelt" cities had large white collar sectors that were poached over a long period of time (by places like dallas) which is still having a depressive effect. For instance, both St. Louis and Indianapolis have similar shares of college educated today, but 30 years ago St. Louis had a larger share of college educated (and likely a larger deep underclass as well).
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Old Posted Nov 8, 2019, 3:06 PM
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That exercise I've made it's quite interesting as allow us to see how relatively big those cities were back then in today's terms.

In fact, the US is the biggest outlier when it comes to those dramatic urban population shifts. Worldwide, some cities grow faster than others, but nowhere close to the level we've seen in the US in the past five decades.
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  #14  
Old Posted Nov 8, 2019, 3:22 PM
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man that detroit transit schematic hurts my heart.
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Old Posted Nov 8, 2019, 3:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yuriandrade View Post
There are whole forum about it (Alternate History), in fact much bigger than SSP.
I have it open in another tab right now actually.
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Old Posted Nov 8, 2019, 4:16 PM
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Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
I have it open in another tab right now actually.
Nice! I have storyline going on there (Multipolar Space Race), you can check it out!

P.S. Despite the name, I even managed to insert a bigger Detroit there.
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  #17  
Old Posted Nov 8, 2019, 4:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Centropolis View Post
many "rustbelt" cities had large white collar sectors that were poached over a long period of time (by places like dallas) which is still having a depressive effect. For instance, both St. Louis and Indianapolis have similar shares of college educated today, but 30 years ago St. Louis had a larger share of college educated (and likely a larger deep underclass as well).
There's probably research to validate your point, but I always felt that those white collared jobs consolidated to the coasts, then when those industries re-expanded, those jobs went to the sun-belt.

The rust belt seem to be in a predicament where its setbacks perpetuate themselves. It's like a person who'd lost a job or had a sudden death in the family and they fall into bad habits to a point where he/she will never be his/her old self.
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Old Posted Nov 8, 2019, 5:25 PM
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I wouldn’t Chicago (and Boston, DC, and Philadelphia) with Cleveland, Detroit, and St Louis. All these cities are below 1950 peaks, but their metro areas have more than doubled or close to it. I think NYC is the only city in the Midwest/Northeast to pass its 20th century high.

What corps did StL lose?
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  #19  
Old Posted Nov 8, 2019, 5:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by galleyfox View Post
You're assuming all the changes would have been positive. I think the situation would be much the same as it is now.
.
It’s fine to consider that as well. I’m just trying to assume the best scenario, which is the ultimate point of this thread.
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  #20  
Old Posted Nov 8, 2019, 5:42 PM
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Originally Posted by yuriandrade View Post
There are whole forum about it (Alternate History), in fact much bigger than SSP.
Interesting. I’ve been trying to bring those types of ideas here since they are very interesting. But I have to check out that Alternate History forum one of these days.
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