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Old Posted Apr 8, 2012, 10:31 PM
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What Cities Looking to Shrink Can Learn From New Orleans

What Cities Looking to Shrink Can Learn From New Orleans


Apr 05, 2012

By Roberta Brandes Gratz



Read More: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/pol...-orleans/1685/

Quote:
.....

American cities started losing population after World War II with the creation of suburbs. "Planned Shrinkage," no different than today’s shrinkage strategies, was New York’s solution to a South Bronx that looked like Dresden after the war and other failing neighborhoods. Fire houses, police stations, schools closed, garbage ignored, streets unrepaired. But residents citywide fought back fiercely, refused to leave, took over vacant buildings, fixed them up on their own, stuck it out with minimum city services and with mottos like “improve don’t move” set about on a sweat equity path that was the catalyst for a slow, incremental citywide rebound. Developers followed the residents’ lead. That is why New York grew again, instead of shrank.

- The same pattern of regeneration took hold in small doses slowly in Savannah, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, San Antonio and more. Now, similar pockets of re-growth can be found in Buffalo, Detroit, Syracuse, Muncie, South Bend and elsewhere. Today, one community exemplifies both the consequences and costs of shrinkage and the regeneration path of incremental but veritable re-growth. That singular place is the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina, skeptics assumed the worst. Officially, the city did not turn its back on the working-class neighborhood of the Lower Ninth, but few dollars and little energy have been expended there. Residents will tell you that there was not much in the way of city services to shrink.

- Residents have defied expectations and expert predictions and are re-staking their claim. Emptiness still dominates the landscape once filled with homes but clusters of rebuilt houses and new construction are not hard to find. The sound of the hammer or buzzsaw is ubiquitous. Officials too often assume shrinkage is inevitable. But do they ever inquire of the diehard hold-outs why they stay? The answers are clues to regeneration instead of assumptions of continued loss. Last year, I asked Josephine Short Butler, 89, if she wasn’t a little nervous returning to such an empty neighborhood when her Lower Ninth home was rebuilt soon after Katrina in one of the bleakest corners of the area. She was one of the first back and the landscape then defined desolate. "Honey," she said to me leaning forward in her chair, "when we moved here in 1948, this was farmland, the streets were paths of oyster shells and it was a 45-minute walk to church."

- Magnet residents exist in every city’s derelict neighborhoods. Often they are owners of mortgage-free homes that can’t be replicated elsewhere, or else something equally compelling is keeping them in place. Magnet residents are easier to find now in the Lower Ninth Ward than the reported wildlife, although residents will tell you they always had snakes and abandoned houses. The Lower Ninth is growing back, much more than expected. When New York was shrinking in the 1970s, planners predicted it would shrink further; thus the need to "plan" for shrinkage. All shrinking cities exhibited similar patterns: departure of resident population for the suburbs starting in the ‘50s and ‘60s and departure of factories and corporations either for overseas or, in the case of New Orleans, for Houston. They all lost much of their local economy. Neither New York nor New Orleans is a special case; only the particulars are different.

.....



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Old Posted Apr 9, 2012, 3:34 AM
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I've been astonished at the regrowth.

There's no doubt that Brad Pitt helped the Lower 9 massively with his Make It Right project (which has now built ~50 new homes based on prototype designs from both local and international architects).

Beyond that... I definitely think the incredible publicity the area received after Katrina (assisted by Mr. Pitt) is a big factor in the turnaround. Before Katrina, New York Times reporters couldn't be bothered to cover anything in New Orleans except Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras. Now they seem to check in on the city every 6 months or so, providing semi-regular updates to people around the world curious to see how the devastated city is now faring. Some of those people were attracted to the city by the explosion of opportunity, and now Holy Cross (the Lower 9 between the river and St. Claude) is practically booming with renovators and young people who are eager to be part of something.
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Old Posted Apr 9, 2012, 3:36 AM
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God I miss the smell of Newarlins.
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Old Posted Apr 9, 2012, 4:19 AM
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So what they're saying is, the key to effective shrinkage is to suffer a natural disaster?
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Old Posted Apr 9, 2012, 4:25 AM
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Yeah, say what cities are looking to shrink their nuts?

Although I've seen balls in New Orleans. Fine balls at that.

I ain't no ay, either?
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Old Posted Apr 9, 2012, 4:26 AM
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Not really. They're saying that whatever the cause for the shrinkage is not a reason to give up on those areas and build them up again.
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Old Posted Apr 9, 2012, 4:28 AM
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You said "shrinkage" MARK!
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