Cities in Transition (PAS 568)

A Guide for Practicing Planners

By Joseph Schilling, Alan Mallach, FAICP

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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...

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

About the Authors

Joseph Schilling

Alan Mallach
Writer, scholar, practitioner and advocate, Alan Mallach has been engaged with the challenges of urban revitalization, neighborhood stabilization and housing provision for fifty years. A senior fellow with the Center for Community Progress, he has held a number of public and private sector positions including serving as director of housing & economic development for the city of Trenton, New Jersey, and currently also teaches in the graduate city planning program at Pratt Institute in New York City. His publications include many books, among them Bringing Buildings Back: From Vacant Properties to Community Assets, which has become the principal resource on vacant property strategies and reuse for thousands of planners, city officials and advocates around the country; as well as numerous scholarly articles, book chapters, and research and policy reports. He is a member of the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Certified Planners, holds a B.A. degree from Yale College, and lives in Roosevelt, New Jersey.

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