Cities in Transition: A Guide for Practicing Planners

PAS Report 568

By Joseph Schilling, Alan Mallach

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Most urban planning tools are designed to manage growth. What happens when the process runs in reverse? How can cities deal effectively with job and population loss, property vacancies, and economic retrenchment?

This vital report offers step-by-step guidance for reviving cities in transition. Although the authors look at the challenges these communities face — from an aging population to urban sprawl to natural disasters — they focus on solutions.

Cities in Transition suggests workable, scalable strategies for revitalizing cities and inner-ring suburbs. It describes the planner's role in building civic and policy support for creative approaches. And it shows how traditional planning tools can adapt to today's needs. In case studies from cities in the Rust Belt, the Sun Belt, and abroad, readers will find examples of urban recovery at work. Planners, policy makers, and community leaders will come away with concrete ideas for making transitional cities stronger, healthier, and more resilient.

Product Details

Page Count
Date Published
April 1, 2012
Adobe PDF
APA Planning Advisory Service

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Introduction
What Are Cities in Transition?
The Planner's Role in Cities in Transition
Overview of the Report

Chapter 2: Setting the Stage
Defining the Problem: Drivers of Decline
Defining the Universe: Cities in Transition
Defining the Challenges
Research and the Shrinking City

Chapter 3: The Strategic Framework for Planning in Cities in Transition
The Planner's Work: Basic Guiding Principles
A Framework for Strategic Policy Planning
Integrating Plans, Programs and Initiatives

Chapter 4: Designing Strategic Policy Plans for Regenerating Cities in Transition
How Is Planning Different in Cities in Transition?
Pathways for a Strategic Policy Plan
Comprehensive Plans
The Strategic Framework Plan
Special Area or District Plans
Choosing a Course of Action
Urban Regeneration

Chapter 5: Adapting Traditional Implementation Tools
Zoning Codes and Land Development Processes
Housing Policies and Programs
Capital Improvement, Infrastructure, and Municipal Service Delivery Plans
Smart Growth Policies and Programs
Economic Development and Redevelopment Strategies and Plans

Chapter 6: Designing Strategies to Address the Special Challenges of Cities in Transition
Vacant Property Strategies
Building Stronger Markets
Greening, Neighborhood Reconfiguration, and Sustainable Reuse
Neighborhood Revitalization Plans, Strategies, and Initiatives

Chapter 7: Planning for Specific Sites and Properties
Choosing Reuse Options
Long-Term versus Short-Term Considerations
Demolition versus Preservation
Site Analysis for Productive Property Reuse
Pattern Books and Design Guidelines

Chapter 8: Engaging the Community
Understanding the Dynamics of Distress
Rebuilding Civic Infrastructure
Developing an Outreach and Engagement Strategy
Creating a Culture of Ongoing Engagement

Chapter 9: Organizing for Successful Planning and Implementation
Building the Environment for Planning in City Hall
Finding Resources for Planning
Building Partnerships
Tackling Policy Issues

Chapter 10: Conclusion

Appendix: Case Studies
Detroit: Testing a Collaborative, Community-Driven Strategic Plan for Reconfiguring Vacant Land
Allentown, Pennsylvania: Leveraging Code Enforcement with Strategic Acquisition to Address Problem Properties
Orange, New Jersey: Engaging the Nonprofit and Public Sectors in Combating Problem Properties
Rialto, California: Minimizing Risk in a Boom-Bust City