In 2012, The American Assembly partnered with the J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City, the Center for Community Progress, and others on a project to support the revitalization of former industrial cities. In early 2018, The American Assembly handed off its legacy cities work to the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Stay tuned for more news later this fall about LILP’s new Legacy Cities Initiative. Visit LegacyCities.org for more information.
Legacy cities thrive when the assets, energy, capacity and love for these places at the local level can be nurtured by positive shifts in public policy, coordinated advocacy and investment. Also important is mutual learning about effective programs and careful, strategic implementation. Below is a snapshot of the insights and efforts conducted by The Assembly and its partners over the past five years.
What are Legacy Cities?
Legacy cities are older, industrial urban areas that have experienced significant population and job loss, resulting in high residential vacancy and diminished service capacity and resources.
US legacy cities have experienced profound social and economic disruption as a result of fundamental shifts of the global economy in recent decades, and policy decisions made at the local, state, and federal level.
Legacy cities have lost between 20–70 percent of residents since their mid-century population peak, but are still vibrant, mid-sized cities home to around 50,000 to 1.5 million people each.
US legacy cities have experienced profound social and economic disruptions as a result of fundamental shifts in the global economy in recent decades. Even so, policy decisions at the local, state, and federal levels have done little to support their growth through these shifts.
Although legacy cities continue to underperform in jobs, population growth and economic diversity, they are home to a number of assets that serve local communities and help them strengthen as centers of their metropolitan regions.
The Case for Legacy Cities
Six-Point Framework for Change:
- Rigorously and objectively analyze city assets, understanding both opportunities and constraints.
- Develop a creative vision for the future of the city, grounded in a thorough understanding of its economic geography, the role in its region, and its function in the global economy.
- Design strategies for residential, commercial and industrial areas with approaches tailored to their market potential and also informed by social and environmental factors.
- Implement inclusive economic growth strategies that address the intensity of concentrated poverty in legacy cities, promoting revitalization that not only attracts newcomers but also increases opportunities for current residents.
- Forge supportive partnerships among federal, state, and local governments by coordinating efforts to target resources and revisiting regulations that impede joint efforts, incentivizing regional collaboration towards shared benefits.
- Build the city's ability to execute complex revival strategies by strengthening leadership, improving fiscal health, investing in information infrastructure, and supporting a healthy business environment.
An effort to rethink strategies for sustainability, livability, and growth in cities facing long-term population loss, industrial decline, and other economic challenges.
A report containing a nine-point strategy to shape new approaches to preservation, to adapt existing tools and policies used by preservationists, and to promote place-based collaboration, especially in legacy cities like Newark, Detroit, and Cleveland.
Urban leaders and landmark experts celebrated Newark’s Hahne & Company Revitalization as an example of how historic preservation can spur development and strengthen legacy cities across the country on December 8th, 2015.
The Assembly cosponsored the 2013 Bruner Loeb Forum, held on November 7th, 2013, under the theme "Legacy City Design," as part of The Assembly's Legacy Cities Design Initiative, a joint project of The American Assembly and J Max Bond Center.