Shrinking cities: A Dream or A Nightmare for Urban Planners?


By URBACT, on October 8th, 2009

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FlintA lot has been said about the city of Flint, Michigan (USA), whose population dropped by half in 40 years, going from 200,000 to 100,000 inhabitants, with the decline of the automobile industry. There are hundreds of empty houses, with peripheral neighbourhoods transformed into near ghost towns.
Elected officials want to bulldoze these neighbourhoods, return them to nature, and group together the population in the town centre. This would reduce public spending, improve living conditions and reduce CO2 emissions.
More or less similar situations exist in Central Europe, and they are leading decision-makers to recognize the inevitable: returning to nature those areas human activity no longer needs and regrouping to better rebound when opportunities arrive. These realisations often come late, too late, after many years of misery and drifting. Prophets of misfortune say, “I told you so.” But who is it that can guarantee a lucid, objective and perspicacious analysis of a city’s future?

Jean-Loup Drubigny

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