Angela Mazzi  |

Every city has at least one: the neighborhood with rampant crime, boarded up buildings, empty lots. Few stroll its streets and the businesses that remain have bars on the windows. This kind of place had a heyday once, but is now in a tragic state of demise. Often, such places are in strategic urban locations and ripe for revitalization. But, short of calling in the bulldozers, how does a neighborhood go about fomenting its renaissance? It starts with properly diagnosing the reasons for decline (every story is not the same) and working closely with neighborhood residents and businesses to develop the prescription to turn things around.

Read The Symptoms, Treat The Problem
So often, response to urban decline is reactionary: high crime translates to constructing fences and more security, for example. However, responding defensively to a series of symptoms has the unintended consequences of creating an even more hostile environment, sending not the message of toughness, but a message that no one, not even the neighborhood residents, are very welcome in the neighborhood. Most people don’t understand this, neither do most planning and zoning commissions. Hence, we end up with everyone’s fears written into the codes, instead of everyone’s hopes. Something like higher crime is usually a symptom of a greater urban disease, which is why applying the aspirin of “lockdown” to the cancer of urban decay seldom works. What a community really needs to do is take a long hard look at itself and begin to look at social and economic factors that have changed for the worse, then look at strategies for making a change {…}