Back to the cities

Formerly decaying neighbourhoods in cities like Boston, Chicago, Houston, Cleveland, New York and Oakland are being revitalised due to what urban-reinvestment expert Paul Grogan calls a "surprising convergence of positives."

In his new book, Comeback Cities: A Blueprint for Urban Neighborhood Revival, co-authored with former journalist Tony Proscio, Grogan explains why city neighbourhoods across the country are recovering. (Now a vice president at Harvard University, Grogan was chief executive of Local Initiatives Support Corp. for 13 years.)

  • Neighbourhood-based community development organisations have formed thousands of public-private partnerships with banks, foundations, corporations and government agencies to build thousands of housing units.

  • Some are "motivated by faith, others by frustration," as Grogan puts it, to recruit businesses, form block watches and civic clubs or organise child-care centres and charter schools.

  • Banks, supermarkets, drug-store chains and other businesses slowly have been coming back to abandoned business districts and are lending capital to help small businesses, many owned by new immigrants.

  • Improved police-community relations, the lowest crime rates in more than 30 years and a booming economy have renewed confidence and commerce in many urban neighbourhoods.

    Finally, Grogan cites the "unshackling of inner-city life from giant bureaucracies" in the welfare system, public-housing authorities and public schools.

    After years of resistance, reforms such as welfare-to-work, resident management of public housing and charter schools are beginning to gain acceptance, with mostly positive results.

    Source: Clarence Page, Back to the City: Reversing 'White Flight,' Chicago Tribune, September 3, 2000.

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