A couple of weeks ago I cited some stories about the urban wasteland troubled city of Camden, NJ as an example of plans for an urban renewal gone wrong and proposed it as a candidate for a ‘civilianized’ version of COIN.
In the comments Adrian recommended taking a look at Rochester, NY is doing in the face of a fleeing population. Now, it’s important to note that there are vast differences between Rochester and Camden. Rochester is bigger, appears to have a much more robust economy than Camden and while it’s crime rate is twice the national average, it’s half of Camden’s. While Rochester was listed as one of the best cities to live in Camden is regularly rated as one of the most dangerous in the country.
Still Rochester seems to be avoiding the siren song of massive projects in the hopes of transforming their city into the next megalopolis and rather is considering a strategy of ‘right sizing’ the city.
An emerging city strategy, dubbed “Project Green,” proposes just that — reconfigure 40 blighted blocks over 20 years, creating consolidated but more connected neighborhoods by removing vacant houses and empty streets and even relocating residents.
Rochester’s vacancy rate is 12 percent to 14 percent — the highest in city history. And Project Green might be the most integrated and comprehensive undertaking of any city so far. The goal: Shrink the city to fit the footprint of its smaller population, thus reducing the city’s vacancy to a healthy 5 percent.
Right-sizing and greening the city should reduce the cost of city services, make the city more vibrant, raise property values and the tax base, and attract investment.
It sounds pretty interesting although it would be nice to know if they considered more forward thinking proposals like converting that abandoned land to power generation or food production. How about some allotment gardening (with the urban poor given priority for plots so that they could supplement their diets with freshly grown produce) or community gardening (with the produce being sold in farmers markets targeted primarily for areas that don’t have good access to fresh produce)? The citizenry is then responsible for the land (and, in this case, the food it produces for them) as opposed to city workers or contractors giving them some material reasons to manage the land and keep it secure.