US Government May Bulldoze 50 Cities; Create More Green Space

by , 06/22/09

sustainable design, green design, urban space, public space, united states cities, bull dozed, destruction, raze, tear-down, shrink to survive, Brett Weinstein

It seems virtually everyone—from Wall Street bankers to small business owners—has been affected by the economic downturn. Now, the recession’s latest victims may be American cities. The Obama administration is reportedly considering plans to raze sections of 50 economically depressed US cities, condensing these towns’ shrinking populations and city services to smaller areas. The plan, dubbed “shrink to survive,” may seem kooky, but it could be big news for environmentalists: In many cases, bulldozed districts would be returned to nature via forests or meadows.

sustainable design, green design, urban space, public space, united states cities, bull dozed, destruction, raze, tear-down, shrink to survive, GETTY

The plan is modeled after a proposal currently underway in Flint, Michigan, the original home of General Motors. The town now suffers from a higher-than-average unemployment rate (about 20 percent) and a rapidly dwindling population, and local politicians claim the city must reduce its size by as much as 40 percent to avoid bankruptcy. Flint’s shrinkage plan is spearheaded by Genesee County treasurer Dan Kildee, who was reportedly approached by the Obama administration to look into other areas of the country that would also benefit from a size reduction.

Kildee says he will focus on 50 US cities identified by the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization. The list may surprise some, as it contains major metropolises like Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Memphis, as well as other former industrial hotspots. Kildee and some government officials believe that downsizing these economically depressed cities will provide citizens with greater quality of life and more efficiently utilize city services.

While bulldozing beloved towns may cause some citizens to cringe, from an environmental standpoint, shrinking cities could provide a planetary benefit. Urban sprawl has devastated ecosystems—condensing urban areas and letting lots go back to nature could restore animal populations and add needed greenery. Plus, more green space helps cool cities and mitigate the heat island effect.

Via Telegraph UK

Lead photo by Brett Weinstein, second photo by GETTY

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  1. Jac February 8, 2010 at 3:55 am

    i think this is a great idea. But there are many things to consider, such as cultural/social identities. And the level of progress this should take place. I would rather they consider all parts of the town, then take on building by building; at the same time, providing jobs for the local unemployed.

  2. nyk June 26, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Yes! Recycle that bulldozed material to rebuild compact, walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly, environmentally efficient communities, and open up green space! Who wants to live in derelict, isolating urban sprawl, anyway? Great idea! Bring in artists to do cool sculptures with the recycle material, too. Great idea!

  3. kd June 22, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    The shrinking cities idea and current economic downturn add relevance to the notion of bulldozing current building sites, and potentially entire sections of a city, to increase quality of life and economic viability. However, would it not be relevant for those administering these proposals to consider reusing the building materials in future projects, or rehabilitating specific sections of a city using resources and materials from the sections of the city targeted for demolition? This could result in the reduction of new materials production, thereby reducing energy, emissions, and resource use, in addition to creating opportunities for the natural environment to reestablish itself.

  4. Lndscpurbnsm June 22, 2009 at 12:48 pm


    Right now, this is less of a proposal, than it is a political agenda. It’s caught in an unfortunate whirlwind of local political upheaval with Kildee and the Land Bank rushing the process forward through a private “working group” with no public input, discussion or involvement. In this scramble to “not miss this opportunity”, they’ve been dictating a specific agenda, process and participants to the city planning commission through a request for funding with the local foundations. Despite not being very happy about it, the commission accepted this with only minor modifications. (The commission’s leadership on this will come later, once they decide what to do, apparently.) This is being rushed because the temporary mayor will be replaced in August by two candidates that think large-lot, suburban-style housing and developments are the answer to the problems Flint (its north and east sides, especially) is seeing. Such a level of ignorance in city leadership is, unfortunately, a long-standing tradition in the city.

    While the city needs to explore the idea of “shrinking,” it has to do so in partnership with its citizens and with the education and empowerment of those people at the forefront. Thusfar, the public process has, at best, been hijacked by special interests who, in all their good intentions, are paving a wide, smooth road straight to hell and leaving a great deal of hysteria, misinformation, paranoia, inaccurate reporting and distrust in their wake and quickly eroding the potential these efforts might have to redevelop and intensify the whole city.

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