For this month's Readers' Review: “Euphoria,” by Lily King, a novel inspired by events in the life of revolutionary anthropologist Margaret Mead.
New census results show Detroit has lost twenty-five percent of its population over the last decade. It’s one of many cities adjusting to fewer residents. Diane and her guests discuss the reasons for the loss in population and the transitioning options for America’s shrinking cities.
- Dante Chinni Director of the Jefferson Institute's Patchwork Nation project and online correspondent for the PBS NewsHour; author of "Our Patchwork Nation."
- Robert Groves Director, U.S. Census Bureau
- Terry Schwarz director of Kent State University's Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative and CUDC's Shrinking Cities Institute.
- Justin Hollander assistant professor of Urban Planning at Tufts University in Massachusetts, author of "Sunburnt Cities: The Great Recession, Depopulation and Urban Planning in the American Sunbelt."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. New census results show Detroit has lost 25 percent of its population over the last decade. Many Rust Belt cities are adjusting to fewer residents, even as the U.S. population grows. Here to talk about options for America's shrinking cities, such as Detroit, in the studio, Dante Chinni of the Patchwork Nation project. Joining us from WCPN in Cleveland, Terry Schwarz of Kent State University's Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative and from Iowa Public Radio in Ames, Justin Hollander, he's at Tufts University in Massachusetts. And throughout the hour, we'll take your calls, 800-433-8850, send us your e-mail to email@example.com, join us on Facebook or Twitter.
MS. DIANE REHMFirst, joining us by phone is Robert Groves, he's director of the U.S. Census Bureau. Good morning to you, sir.
MR. ROBERT GROVESGood morning, Diane. It's great to be with you today.
REHMThank you. Overall, give us your impression of this latest census. What does it tell us?
GROVESWell, we have grown, as we have in past decades, but only by about 10 percent, 9.7 percent. That could be contrasted with the 13 percent growth in the prior decade. We're now a nation of 308.7 million people. The slowing of the growth rate is a common phenomenon in developed societies. That's happening throughout the world, so it's not unusual. The big headlines, I think, of the 2010 census that we've all been reading have to do with the growth of minority populations, especially the Hispanic and the Asian populations. And beyond just their growth in size, the dispersion spatially, the geographical movement of these populations spreading throughout the whole country in really quite dramatic ways.
REHMI know that Detroit's mayor, Dave Bing, is challenging the accuracy of the data. Are there people you believe that the census actually misses?
GROVESWell, I -- you know, this is the time when local mayors look at their numbers that we deliver and I have great empathy for some of them who are saddened by the counts, Dave being among them. I'm a Michigander, as you may know. There is no perfect census that has ever been done in the United States. I don't think we can ever be perfect, but we go through a lot of operations that have increased in their volume over time to try to get the counts right. We give people over a month to respond to the questionnaire, then we send replacement questionnaires. We use bilingual forms, Spanish and English, that did improve the return rate.
GROVESAnd then we begin a process of, for those houses that don't return the form, to call on them in person and our enumerators visited each household six times and if at the end of the six times they had made no contact with someone, they contacted a building manager or a neighbor to determine the status of the unit. And then later, we even went back again with another enumerator to verify any vacants. So we've done a lot. We've tried to be fair in doing the same procedures throughout the country, but we must admit that no census is perfect in this country.
REHMSure. But when you talk about Detroit and New Orleans, we can better understand a drop of more than 29 percent of population, but Detroit, down 25 percent. Where did they all go?
GROVESWell, if you look at the data for census counts surrounding Detroit, it is notable that all of the counties that touch Wayne County, where Detroit City sits, grew this past decade. Although this is speculation, it is logical that some of the reduction in the Detroit population has to do with movement to the suburbs.
REHMAnd you mention that the overall population grew by 9.7 percent as opposed to some 13 percent in prior decades and slowing is common. What do you mean?
GROVESThe native population of the United States is aging, passing prime fertility times. The fertility rate of the majority population is lower than that of the minority population. And then, because of that, despite the fact that we've had large amounts of immigration over the past 10 years, the growth of the overall population from natural increases is smaller than it was before.
REHMAnd what does the census mean for redirecting federal funds?
GROVESThe census, when combined with other estimates from the American Community Survey throughout the decade is related to the return of funds both at the state and federal level. Mainly the population counts, but some other data as well. And we estimate that that amounts to about $400 billion a year, based off of current programs. Whether that will continue is obviously not clear.
REHMAnd finally, Robert Groves, what surprised you the most about these census results?
GROVESYou know, it's what I said, but it's the personal feeling that I got traveling around the country to small towns, encouraging people to participate and to note the great diversity of those small villages often. There is, for example, a large Burmese population in of all places, Fort Wayne, Ind. There are images we have of the country of immigrants mainly living in big cities and mainly on the coast and those aren't correct anymore and the 2010 census really taught us that, I think.
REHMRobert Groves, director of the U.S. Census Bureau. Thank you for joining us, sir.
GROVESIt was my pleasure, Diane. Thank you.
REHMThank you very much. Turning to you, Dante Chinni, talk about what it is that contributes to huge losses, such as those in Detroit.
MR. DANTE CHINNIWell, I think Detroit is obviously a special case in a very negative way in this particular framework that it's the collapse of the auto industry, it's the collapse of Industrial America and to be honest, if you're in Detroit, if you're living in Detroit and those jobs are disappearing, there is less and less reason to stay there. It's the rise of crime in the big cities. I grew up in Detroit suburbs. I mean, I saw all this happen.
MR. DANTE CHINNII mean, you know, I was there when the census came out in 1980 and, you know, Detroit actually lost more people between 1970 and 1980, 300,000 people left between 1970 and 1980. The smaller percentage, because it was a bigger city, but more people. But at the time, you could look at that and say, well, that's really from '70 to '80, it's falling the race riots in the late '60s and it's -- you know, it's white flight. This is something else, right? This is something else. This is about, there's just less and less for people in the city to do. There are less jobs for them to hold and there's just less and less reason to stay.
REHMBut as Robert Groves said, what they did was flee to...
REHM...those communities around Detroit. What are they going to do there?
CHINNIThat's what's going to be interesting. I grew up -- the city I grew up in, Warren, borders Detroit and the school district that I grew up in borders Detroit. It borders Eight Mile Road. And when I was in that school district, there was not a single -- and Detroit was more than 80 percent African-American, more than 80 percent black. There was not a single black kid in my high school until about 10th grade. We got our first -- the first black graduate of the high school I went to in a district that bordered Detroit, didn't happen 'til 1985, right?
CHINNIWhen I went back there, I went back there five years ago now, 15 years after I graduated, it is at least 30 percent African-American. And the African-American population has moved north, the white population moved out there. There's actually a rising Hmong population there. What are they going to do? They're going to work in what's left of the auto industry there and the tool and dye shops and the factories which still do exist around Detroit and they're going to work in the service sector.
REHMJustin Hollander, what can a city do when it loses population at the rate Detroit has?
MR. JUSTIN HOLLANDERYeah, hi, Diane. Yeah, so the traditional urban planning approach has been to make the city more desirable. That's been the answer. And you've probably heard about some of the things that Detroit has tried, the monorail, various stadiums, various urban renewal projects and so this is a whole school of thought within this profession that says, if people are leaving, what we need to do is we need to make it more desirable. And so that conventional wisdom has been challenged in the last five to 10 years.
MR. JUSTIN HOLLANDERA group of people, architects, planners, academics have kind of thought about, well, wait a second, maybe what we need to instead do is manage that process of decline and don't call it decline anymore (laugh), let's call it shrinkage.
HOLLANDERTo position it as a neutral change, not necessarily as a bad thing and so the details of exactly how do you do that...
REHMAll right. Short break here, Justin. And when we come back, we'll talk further to you as well as to Terry Schwarz. Stay with us.
REHMWelcome back. We're talking about the 2010 census, what it tells us about the shrinking population across the country, but certainly hitting some cities particularly hard, such as Detroit. Dante Chinni is here in the studio, he's director of the Jefferson Institute's Patchwork Nation project and online correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, author of the book, "Our Patchwork Nation." Justin Hollander is assistant professor in Urban Planning at Tufts University, Terry Schwarz is director of Kent State University's Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative.
REHMAnd our first e-mail takes issue with Rustbelt. He says, "As a Michigan resident, I would appreciate if the media would change this appellation. How about Former Manufacturing Belt, which is more accurate and not as pejorative for a whole area as Rustbelt is. Thanks." What do you think, Dante?
CHINNIWell, I understand the hard feelings around Rustbelt.
CHINNIAnd I will say that, you know, really, when you get outside of -- Michigan is the Rustbelt, right -- you get outside of Detroit, Michigan's a pretty varied place, you know. It's about agriculture. University of Michigan is about really tech and education, but, you know, Rustbelt is just -- I don't know if former manufacturing is that much better because it does suggest it's past its prime. And so (word?)...
REHMAll right. Well, let's just talk about distressed areas. Terry Schwarz, one of the things cities have been looking at is the idea of relocating people out of the so-called distressed districts. How well does that work?
MS. TERRY SCHWARZAs yet, it's fairly untested as a strategy. There's a lot of rhetoric and a lot of planning around this idea of massive relocations, but a city would need to get to a fairly distressed condition before that becomes feasible. I mean, I think that, you know, this kind of rhetoric of shrinking cities, it always comes to that, you know. Is it shrinking, declined, distressed? Are they post-manufacturing cities? Here in Cleveland, we like to think of ourselves as part of the Great Lakes Region because it does kind of put the emphasis on a significant asset. And you'll find that most of these depopulating cities are concentrated in this area of substantial water.
MS. TERRY SCHWARZI think that -- I think that there have been few examples of large-scale relocations largely because it's really expensive and really difficult to do. I think maybe on the coast people have this perception of Detroit as being an empty city. But despite all they've lost, there's still 700,000 people in that city. And even the most depopulated parts of the city have substantial residents.
REHMBut now going back to this idea of relocating people, didn't Youngstown, Ohio make that effort?
SCHWARZYoungstown, Ohio definitely made the effort, but there was very little implementation as the result of it. I mean, I think what's driving cities to consider this idea is tied to the question of infrastructure. When you have declining populations and massive job losses the way that these cities have experienced, there's declining municipal revenues. So you have to continue to service the same urban footprint with fewer and fewer dollars. So the idea of consolidation, I think, has been driven more by the hope of cost savings rather than the kind of compelling design issues that could emerge.
REHMBut now, Justin Hollander, how about those redesign issues? How effective can they be in bringing a depopulated or less populated city closer together so it works more cohesively?
HOLLANDERYeah, so I'm actually not so much an advocate of consolidation, I'm much more an advocate of decreased density. So in that sense, taking a place that is very high density, 100 by 50 feet lots, all the houses are crammed together and just making space so that people can live with larger yards, more space between neighbors. And so you go from being maybe very, very highly urban to maybe a little bit more suburban and maybe even go all the way down to rural.
SCHWARZCould I add something to that?
REHMSure, go ahead, Terry.
SCHWARZWell, I think that Justin articulates the kind of central kind of spatial challenge of a declining city. I mean, do you consolidate or do you allow residents to disburse? And I suspect it's not either/or. I mean, what we see in cities like Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis and Buffalo, others, is that those two phenomenon happen simultaneously, that you can consolidate development into some key viable places in a city and then allow other places to gradually lose density. But to choose one or the other is probably a strategy that's not going to work so well.
REHMBut Dante Chinni, how do people feel about making changes...
REHM...moving one way or another?
CHINNII mean, the one thing you can do obviously in Detroit is -- you know, this is unbelievable -- you know, there are -- I think the estimate is 40 square miles of vacant property in the city of Detroit. So the thing you could theoretically do is offer somebody who lives in a very small house like, move here, you get a much bigger place, you can have your own land, you could have a garden in the backyard. I don't know, it's a tough sell -- I still think it's ultimately a tough sell, but I think it's true -- you know, there's been some experimentation now with urban agriculture in the city.
CHINNII think that's fascinating. I don't -- I'm still not sure if it's ultimately going to work, but I think it's really an interesting experiment (word?).
REHMYou know, we had a Swedish designer on who talked about exactly that, taking urban spaces, creating agricultural plots out of them, consolidating living spaces...
REHM...so people could live, work...
REHM...and get their food from exactly the same place.
CHINNII mean, there's a rich history of that being a desire, right? Going back to Victorian England and the desire of making -- taking the smokestacks out of London and making it a garden city. These things have been dreamed of for a long time. My concern is what happens is, and I hate to say this, I'm a journalist and what's going to happen when you have cornfields in Detroit and you have the first drug deal go down in the cornfield. And you're going to have the pictures in the newspaper and people are going to respond to that. And at some point, that'll happen. I don't think that that means you should not try it, I just think it's -- you know, it's -- when you have a lot of empty space and there's a lot of things you can do in agricultural land that -- that it's tricky. It's very tricky.
REHMSo Justin, you see -- or you believe that people need to rethink zoning. So explain what you mean.
HOLLANDERYeah, I mean, right now, the way that zoning codes are constructed in virtually every city and town in America is to manage growth so that when someone comes and wants to build something on a piece of property, that's controlled. They don't really work in terms of managing decline. So I'm advocating a new approach to zoning called relaxed zoning where an overlay is put on top of an area that may experience decline. And if it does start to lose people, then all of a sudden, a whole new range of new uses are allowed. Cornfields (laugh)...
HOLLANDER...being one of them. I mean, the idea that we can provide a much more broader range of possible uses in formerly residential areas.
REHMAnd Terry Schwarz, I know Ohio saw lots of population declines in cities. Give us an example of how some of them dealt with it.
SCHWARZWell, actually in Ohio, every major city has experienced substantial population loss, with the exception of Columbus. And so it's a phenomenon that's impacting cities across the state. And I think that here in Cleveland, where my organization is based, we're seeing a lot of kind of innovative work on the part of the city, the sewer district, the county in terms of strategic land reuse. I don't think that the city of Cleveland or the city of Detroit makes sense as a large scale urban farm, but strategically inserting food production into places where you have concentrations of impoverished residents -- shrinking cities and poverty go hand-in-hand -- so this is a way of introducing calories and nutrition into some of the most vulnerable neighborhoods in a city.
SCHWARZI think that also -- again, getting back to this issue of Great Lake cities, there are certain initiatives that can protect and improve water quality in our rivers, creeks, streams and in the Great Lakes system that are tied to the strategic reuse of green infrastructure strategies for vacant land.
REHMNow, you said that almost every city in Ohio except Columbus.
REHMHow come? How come?
SCHWARZWell, Columbus has had an annexation policy, so Columbus, the core city, probably has experienced similar trends to every other city in Ohio, but they keep extending or have, you know, historically over the last 20 years extended their boundary to incorporate more suburbs. So as a result, they have a more diverse economy. They have a more diverse population of residents and that has been strategically very useful, especially in terms of maintaining healthy taxpayers.
CHINNIAnd that said, I think Columbus has a couple of really -- has a couple things going for it that other cities just -- you have to either have them or you don't, right. Columbus happens to be the state capitol and the state capitol, you know, that's an industry that doesn't leave town. And it has Ohio State University. And these things have -- you know, those things in particular, especially state government and the university there have -- what does it do? It attracts certain kinds of people. It attracts people with higher education levels, higher incomes and it has really benefitted that area. Not everybody has that, though.
REHMBut what about the Cleveland Clinic, for example, Terry?
SCHWARZWell, I think this is true. I mean, we -- you know, if you look at cities that have lost population -- I mean, New York City lost 900,000 residents in the 1970s, but they stabilized and recovered. And I think that was in large part due to the diverse and very large economy. On a smaller scale, I mean, you've got Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C., all cities that have lost a lot of people since the 1950s and 1960s. But in the 2010 census, those three cities stabilized and I suspect it's because they were able to retool their economies away from a single industry to a broader range. And I think the Cleveland Clinic and the biomedical industry here in northeast Ohio may sort of, you know, point the way for at least the recovery of a city like Cleveland.
CHINNIAnd just a quick note on New York, we looked at -- for the project I do, we looked at median family incomes in 1980 and 2010 for every county in the country to see what had happened. The largest increase in median family income in the United States between 1980 and 2010 by percent was New York City -- New York, N.Y. It grew by 85 percent. So Manhattan, because it's so -- the economy is so dynamic, you know, it's business, it's entertainment, it's media, it's everything, has been able to rise above it. I think Boston has that -- Detroit -- Washington has that. Places like Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis, it's much harder because they don't have that dynamism.
SCHWARZBut I think if you look at even the smaller cities like Flint, Mich., you know, your traditional one is your town -- Youngstown as well -- the smaller you get and the more focused a city is on a single industry, the more difficult I think it will be to recover from population loss.
REHMTerry Schwarz, she's director of Kent State University's Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative and CUDC's Shrinking Cities Institute. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Dante, what happens to the people who are left behind when cities shrink?
CHINNIWell, the city shrinks, I think, in large part because the jobs aren't there anymore, the industry dries up. So what you have left increasingly, especially in a place like Detroit, is the people who really can't afford to leave increasingly. So what do they have? I don't know. It's hard -- because what's happened when the industrial base dries up, right, the nice thing about those industrial jobs is you didn't have to have a lot of education or a lot of skill to do them and they paid a good wage, right.
CHINNIThat was the rise -- Detroit was really the rise of America. It was the rise of the guy who was the factory worker who could go make a lot of money and give a better life to his family, the next generation than he had. That's gone now. So what does that same worker have as an opportunity now, the person without the skills and the education? Less and less. And the industry has left, so they don't have the manufacturing jobs. What kind of services do you need when your population's shrinking? You need fewer and fewer services, even those jobs, which don't pay as well. So the people who are left behind are -- they're really left behind in a lot of senses.
HOLLANDERDiane, can I jump in?
REHMSure, go right ahead.
HOLLANDERJust to answer that same question, so what we typically think about as those left behind are the die-harders and the people who really have no choice, but it's not always true. And I think that it's important that we are open to other conceptions of a shrinking city, that sometimes the people left behind are the ones who like having access to the urban amenities, who like having more land than people in the past.
HOLLANDERAnd so instead of this kind of fixation with like, oh, why are you living in a shrinking city or why are you living in a growing city, to rather that out from a policy standpoint, we should be looking to develop policies, tools and strategies so that as a place grows or shrinks, that we can improve the quality of life for the people who are there.
CHINNII think that's true. The one thing I'd add though is -- and there are some people who move to the city 'cause you want the city life...
CHINNI...and I think that's completely -- but that tends to be a younger person. And if you're a family, it's a lot harder as a young family to say, I'm gonna take a flier and move to Detroit because I want to live the city life, when you know the schools -- what are you going to do about the schooling? It gets much more complicated. I mean, we see it here in the District.
REHMHere's an e-mail from Gretchen who says, "Detroit is not only losing people to the suburbs, it's also struggling with managing a vast geographical area. You can fit Manhattan, Boston and San Francisco into Detroit's city limits. I think that's an amazing fact," says Gretchen.
HOLLANDERYeah, and the other thing that's amazing is when you drive into Detroit, there is a small urban center that is high rise buildings and a real city. And the rest of Detroit, just because of the way it developed around the automobile, it's single family homes, there are not a lot of big apartment buildings in Detroit, it's single family homes. It was the place where you could live the American Dream. You could have your car and your house and your plot of land all within the city limits. And that makes it really hard because even though it was dense, obviously compared to rural America it's a fairly dense place, it was never as dense as a place like New York City or Boston or Philly.
REHMDante, what about racial changes going on throughout the country?
CHINNIWell, I talked to somebody last week about how a lot of African-Americans have left New York and they're going back south and why are they leaving New York City to go south. And you know, the response was, they're moving to the south and they're actually moving to places that are predominantly white. Why would that be? It's like, well, you know, those people may be leaving New York, Manhattan in particular because it's not easy to be middle class in Manhattan. They might be looking and say I'm a middle class person, and a lot of these people are wealthier and better educated African Americans. I'm going to move south because there are more opportunities down there. And I'm going to move to a white neighborhood because I don't view myself as a "Black American." I'm a middle class American. I want a middle class life, that's the life I want.
CHINNISo I actually think that what we're going to see in the south especially and I think in the north, too, which we've seen for a while is -- you know, it's going to be more diverse. Those communities are going to be more diverse. Like I said, the community I grew up in was a bad community -- it's a bad example because it's more diverse now, but I think it actually lost population. The city that immediately abuts Detroit actually lost population, but the city -- the next city out grew.
REHMDante Chinni, director of the Jefferson Institute's Patchwork Nation project. Short break. When we come back, we'll open the phones. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd it's time to open the phones. Let's go first to Falls Church, Va. Good morning Jerry, you're on the air.
JERRYHello, am I on?
REHMYou're on, sir, go right ahead.
JERRYOkay, yes, given the converging transit, the industrial base drying up, fuel prices on the rise, more impoverished citizens and shrinking cities, the more empty spaces, can your guests comment on, I know they commented a little bit on it before, but the future of community farming and decentralized energy, if we have more impoverished people, how are they going to cope in the 21st century in these cities?
REHMJustin? Justin Hollander, are you there? Dear, I'm afraid we've lost him. Terry, can you respond?
SCHWARZCertainly. I think that decentralized energy offers a lot of interesting opportunities. I mean, we are entering an era where energy is becoming more and more expensive and so lower densities and differing densities within cities create new opportunities for inserting renewable energy production into the urban fabric.
SCHWARZI think urban agriculture, community farming is a much more complicated question. One of the things we haven't talked about at all are the kind of ecological characteristics of older industrial cities. We're talking about cities that underwent 100, 200 years of intense development. There's a lot of pollution, environmental toxicity and just general degradation of soil quality.
SCHWARZSo if you really wanted to mount a large-scale urban agriculture effort in shrinking cities there's a lot of work that's going to have to be done in terms of restoring soil so that they're productive for the growing of food. That said, I think that concentrated food production facilities, greenhouses, for instance, are a function that has often occurred in cities over the last century and could be reinstated, particularly when linked with renewable energy sources.
SCHWARZCleveland's greenhouse industry disappeared in the 1970s when energy costs became so high. So inserting those two things together create, I think, a viable, economic strategy for some of these places.
CHINNIYeah, the other thing I'd say is there's a challenge of course to all this, all this people. The fleeing of the cities in these places and that's, it's harder to create a mass transit system that'll transport people well from one place to another. I think, one thing we really haven't talked about on the show, but just a quick note about Detroit.
GROVESOne of the real problems in the collapse of Detroit is there was no mass transit infrastructure. I mean, there was the Monorail that went in a circle around the downtown, but there is no mass transit infrastructure in place and that saves cities that built them, and cities don't have them, I think, you know, those place that have halted the decline, Philadelphia, Boston, D.C., that we were just talking about, all those places have mass transit systems, subways in place.
CHINNIThey don't have them in Detroit.
REHMAnd expanding them.
REHMAll right. To Metamora, Mich. Good morning Ike.
IKEYes, ma'am, hi Diane, hi folks.
IKEI live out in the rural areas, in the country away from Detroit, but I do get down to Detroit, love going down to the Joe and Cobo and see the, I mean, sporting events, show events, and I'm wondering sometimes if maybe it's more of a marketing issue that Detroit has. I'm not looking at it with rose-colored glasses but, you know, there's an awful lot of bad press.
IKESomehow Seinfeld turned it into it's cool if somebody got rolled in New York and make light of it. If somebody gets rolled in Detroit, it hits the national press and we get another black eye. Maybe we need to start focusing on making Detroit what Detroit can be instead of trying to turn Detroit into Chicago, New York, all that other stuff.
IKEAnd I'll take my response off the air.
CHINNIThat's a great point. I honestly, I know there's been a lot, the ad that ran during the Super Bowl with Eminem in it and like the -- from Chrysler. In Detroit, that was a big deal. That's been in the papers very often over the last two months, talking about that thing.
CHINNIAnd, you know, that's really about Detroit trying to take ownership of, we're not a pretty city. We're a gritty city, and I think that's a start, but it's more, I think it has more than just a public relations problem. But I think the caller's right. That's, Detroit does have to own its image. It can't try to be something else.
REHMAll right. To St. Louis, Mo. Good morning, Randy.
RANDYHi, I just wanted to say, I don't really think it's fair to take population numbers at face value alone. For some place, like St. Louis, population doesn't automatically equal widespread abandonment. You know, in a city like St. Louis, which again this year continued its long population decline, I think a lot of people here would argue that the city is really in much better shape today than it was 10 years ago in many ways.
RANDYAnd neighborhoods that were once long neglected seem today to be a lot more vibrant and you see a lot more reinvestment. There's just a greater sense of optimism about city living and one more point is that we need to also realize that a lot of shrinking cities are still the major hubs of continually growing metropolitan areas. So it doesn't mean they're automatically irrelevant just because the central core population declines. I think there are a lot of factors that precipitate that decline and it should be taken in a much broader context.
SCHWARZI think that's completely true. It's important to know that, you know, all cities grow and all cities decline. I mean, if we take the timeline out far enough, you know, we see these phenomenon of change in urban areas. And I think that the perception of some of these older, industrial cities as being, you know, unrelentingly negative places to live is really untrue.
SCHWARZSo figuring out ways to kind of harvest the opportunities in this moment where property values have reduced value and we can recreate and reinvent parts of a city, is exactly, I think, what the caller is speaking to is going on in St. Louis. That you do get these pockets of vibrancy that can be grown.
REHMSo can, for example, a place like Detroit, Dante, use this kind of decline in population, somehow, to its advantage?
CHINNIYeah, I mean, what you hear and I'm sure a lot of urban experts will say this, but, you know, the comparison you hear now with Detroit from people who study urban affairs is Detroit's the Berlin of the 21st century, right. It's a chance where you really have a chance to go in and remake everything and I think that there is some truth to that.
REHMIt takes money.
CHINNIIt does take money and it takes time and I wrote about this on Friday, but one of the things that's interesting to me is you have Detroit and you have Ann Arbor, 40 miles away. You know, Ann Arbor, it's a very...
CHINNI...different place from Detroit. But Ann Arbor really does have a chance to kind of direct through the education economy there and then the technology economy there to kind of redirect and refocus what the area's about and maybe try to bring Detroit along for the ride. I think that's some of the hope and maybe help be part of that re-imagining of Detroit.
SCHWARZYes, I mean, there's an authenticity of older cities that I think is something that can be, you know, kind of capitalized. We get a lot of Eastern European visitors here in Cleveland because they're interested in this phenomenon of vacancy and decline. They're experiencing much the same, but whenever people come to Cleveland from eastern Europe they always want to go to Detroit and frankly, I find that a little troubling.
SCHWARZI mean, we've got abandonment, we got a blight. That's not good enough for you. But I mean, the point is there's almost a romanticism about what's going on in Detroit and I think that in some ways that could be used to the city's advantage, assuming that it doesn't result in stereotyping of the city that would inhibit future stabilization and re-growth.
REHMAll right. Here's another thought from Anne, who's in Wayland, Mass. Good morning.
ANNEGood morning, Diane. I wanted to say, I grew up in Detroit, graduated from college in 1980 and didn't go back after that except to visit my mother. But I now live in the Boston area, and I guess my point is similar to one of your earlier e-mails, that the geographical sprawl of Detroit is just, you know, it's way too much, and my thinking is comparing it to here in the Boston area, where Boston proper is surrounded by, you know, other towns and each little town has its own character within a fairly small geographical area.
ANNEAnd I think it's maybe a model, I don't know if Detroit could go that way but what about subdividing it up and letting different neighborhoods take charge of their own future and develop their own character?
CHINNIThere actually has been some talk about that, just kind of chatter back and around in blogs and things, and more than just blogs. But talking about shrinking the city down and creating these independent, you know, cities outside of Detroit, you know, the one thing I think that a lot of people miss is that, look, New England just developed differently.
CHINNINew England developed with a small compact Boston and then these little towns, they don't just have their own characters, they have their own downtowns, they have their feels to them. It's tough in a place like Detroit because of the way it was put together, the way the whole area was put together, it just, it started with a sprawl.
REHMHere's an interesting e-mail from R.J. in St. Louis. He says, "Though Detroit lost 25 percent since 2000, St. Louis has lost 27 percent of its population between 1970 and 80, the highest percentage of decline for a major city. Currently at 319,000, St. Louis has dropped from 900,000 in 60 years, leaving behind a vacancy rate that rivals New Orleans."
REHM"Why is it that St. Louis hasn't been part of this dominant post-industrial narrative? It seems the discourse is allowed Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh to inspire collective outrage over collapse and possibility for innovation?"
CHINNIThat's a good point about St. Louis. I was just there in January and I travel around the country a lot, but I don't go into St. Louis. But I had a meeting with some people there and it struck me, driving through St. Louis, how much it, it looked so much like Detroit. It's mind-blowing.
CHINNIMind-blowing. Seriously, and I mean, they even have, they have an old theater downtown called The Fox Theater and there's a restaurant. It's exactly, it's just striking how similar it was, and I think the caller's right. I think it gets left behind because it's not part of this thing, I know they don't want to hear the term, but what we characterize as the Rust Belt. Somehow St. Louis falls outside of that.
REHMDante, describe your work for us.
CHINNIWell, what I do is, we've taken a lot of debt, every bit of debt we can get our hands on and we've taken all the counties in America and we've broken them into 12 types of place, and then I spend my time traveling, talking to these people in these different communities and traveling to these different communities, and one of them is in Missouri. It's an evangelical community far from St. Louis, but I hate to fly, so I fly in St. Louis and drive.
CHINNIAnd what I've been able to do is really see how different kinds of communities have flourished and fallen really over the past 10, 15, 20, 30 years and these big cities, they fall into two categories in my mind. One is, one category is this type that's like New York and Washington and Boston. And I think maybe in some sense Philly. Philly, I think, maybe has turned a corner.
CHINNIBut especially New York, D.C. and Boston where they've kind of, they've remade themselves for the information economy and the financial economy and they've been able to grow and flourish. They are still vast disparities there, there are a lot of rich and poor.
REHMIt's interesting to me that Washington grew by 5.2 percent but there's a lot of African American flight out of the city. What's going on there?
CHINNIWe're going to find out. I mean, what's really happened is gentrification has marched eastward, right? And it used to be that, and at some point I don't think we, I don't know if we're there yet, but at some point they think that D.C. will become majority white again, which is remarkable.
REHMAnd they've said that that could happen within a year, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to Chiffon, in Turpin Springs, Fla. Good morning to you.
CHIFFONI love your show.
CHIFFONI left Buffalo, N.Y. 17 years ago and moved to Florida. One of the reasons was Buffalo was really having huge problems. Now that I'm in Florida, we have a huge controversy about a high-speed rail, and the governor, which a lot of us here in Tampa Bay are so mad about. But I also wanted to tell you I go back to Buffalo every summer to Garden Walk, which is the largest garden walk in the country, and they have Metro, and they have trolleys and Buffalo has been able to reinvent itself and from being a city known only about snow, to flowers and an easy place to live and get around in.
REHMIsn't it also an education community?
CHINNIBuffalo has aspects of it and also remember, it, you know, it actually has a lot of things around it. It has Niagara Falls so it kind of play off a little bit of the tourism card. I mean, it can, it was able to diversify itself. I mean, it has, it's smaller, obviously. Buffalo is not the city it was and it's not out of the woods, but, you know, it's managed itself a little better.
REHMChiffon, can you describe what the governor's problem is with rapid rail?
CHIFFONHe said it's cost. The cost of keeping it up and maintenance, but there's a study that was released recently and they said that's not true. It will actually make money, and when Tampa Bay is having such problems, our unemployment, I think, is 12 percent here. We really see this as a huge positive for the area. In fact, the governor's been booed at opening day and there's going to be another baseball game and there's a huge amount of people who are going to show up and boo him again.
REHMInteresting. Terry, I was just down in Jacksonville and heard the same kind of protests from people down there about the governor's decision. What could rapid rail have done for the state of Florida?
SCHWARZWell, I mean, rapid rail could help revive economies. I mean, here in Ohio, our governor is also opposed to high-speed rail and has actually returned millions of dollars to the federal government rather than invest in a system. I think that connectivity builds diversity and to economies, you know, so being able to link cities would be able to kind of offset some of their respective challenges.
SCHWARZYou know, it creates a wider job market. It creates a wider economic sector so that cities could collaborate rather than compete and I think that the connectivity, the transportation connectivity's a key piece of infrastructure that unfortunately, a lot of older industrial cities are lacking.
CHINNIYes, well Wisconsin, I believe, turned down money as well. And the thought in all these places was going to end up costing more money than they want, but to leave infrastructure money like that on the table, to me, is, I don't know, it's their choice, but building those lines mean, Florida, that line I think was going to go along the I-4 corridor between Orlando and Tampa. If there was ever a place where you could really use some high-speed rail and you would be able to move people up and down easily, it would've been there.
REHMAnd that's the last word. Dante Chinni, he's director of the Jefferson Institute's Patchwork Nation Project, online correspondent for the PBS news hour and author of the book titled, "Our Patchwork Nation." Terry Schwarz's is director of Kent State University's Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, and earlier you heard from Robert Groves, director of the U.S. Census Bureau and Justin Hollander. He's with the Urban Planning Institute at Tufts University.
REHMThank you all so much.
REHMAnd thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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