The importance of legacy cities

Legacy cities revitalization is critical to our nation's economic sustainability.

Why are Legacy Cities Important? The Reinventing American’s Legacy Cities Strategies for Cities Losing Population states, “America’s legacy cities and their assets deserve attention for equity and sustainability reasons, but equally important their revitalization are critical to our nation.” The report also states that there is enormous value in the physical infrastructure, civic institutions and human capital. Legacy cities are vital places for living histories.

Based on the report, the Physical Assets in legacy cities are: Traditional downtowns, stable neighborhoods, Historic buildings, areas, and neighborhoods, physical legacies such as Olmsted parks or art museums, water bodies, and multimodal transportation networks. The Institutional and Economic Assets: Colleges and universities, hospitals and medical centers, manufacturing companies, downtown employment base, arts, cultural, and entertainment facilities and activities. The Leadership and Human Capital Assets: Local government, foundations, local corporations and business communities, nonprofit organizations, civic and advocacy infrastructure, cohesive ethnic communities, local skill sets, regional growth

Michigan has 15 legacy cities located across the southern half of the state, and to address and find solutions for the problems experienced by legacy cities is a very complex task because of the differences in demographics, education, population, local assets, infrastructure, history and economies. Placemaking has been used to facilitate the regeneration of some legacy cities.
Glenn Pape, Michigan State University Extension Educator defines Placemaking as:

The set of activities, planned for mainly by the local government/planning commission, and done by local government/developers to create a community and region which attract educated knowledge workers.  Placemaking means creating good physical form that attracts strong business and social activity that fosters positive emotional feelings in people who are attracted to the space the form creates: a strong sense of place.

The Projects for Public Spaces believes that communities can move from inadequate to extraordinary places: “Public spaces are key elements of individual and social well-being, the places of a community’s collective life, expressions of the diversity of their common natural and cultural richness, and a foundation of their identity.”

In conclusion, Glenn Pape provides an excellent example of how the Placemaking and New Economy Principals can be used to regenerate Legacy Cities. He states:

Placemaking in Michigan means creating or preserving high quality communities.  Communities that have attract educated knowledge workers have elements such as mixed-use developments, quality public spaces, broadband, multiple transportation options, multiple housing options, preservation of historic structures, arts and culture, and green places that are linked regionally to rural and natural places.

Those in Michigan State University Extension that focus on land use provide various training programs on planning and zoning, which are available to be presented in your county.  Contact your local land use educator for more information.

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