Shrinking Cities Bibliography

Sign painted on building in DetroitThe Shrinking Cities Bibliography is an online resource for planners and researchers seeking an interdisciplinary, annotated bibliography of pertinent literature about cities in transition.

This list highlights articles, events, and other publications from the American Planning Association and other experts in the field.

New publications and educational opportunities will be added periodically so please revisit this list to see the most current ideas about Shrinking Cities.

A Note on the Availability of Resources

Articles from Planning magazine are available online to members of APA.

Articles from JAPA, Zoning Practice, Planning & Environmental Law, and PAS Memo are available to those publications' subscribers in varying online formats. JAPA articles in the bibliography contain an access link for subscribers who are also APA members.

Current Articles and Research

Berkooz, Corry Buckwalter. 2010. "Repurposing Detroit." Planning. November, 26-31. Available at

  • The article provides an overview of concerns and challenges facing Detroit as it attempts to revitalize its urban fabric and economic core. Community interactions and nonprofit collaboration is helping to spur some innovative new solutions to try and arrest the city's decline.

Bonfiglio, Olga. 2009. "Delicious in Detroit." Planning. August, 32-37.

  • Urban agriculture has become entrenched in Detroit. This article discusses many gardening and agricultural projects being undertaken in the city to make use of its large number of vacant lots. Initiatives to ease the transfer and use of land are also described.

Bratt, Rachel G. 2008. "Viewing Housing Holistically: The Resident-Focused Component of the Housing-Plus Agenda." Journal of the American Planning Association 74(1): 100-110. Available at (free to APA member JAPA subscribers who log in through

  • The author provides an overview of the national "housing plus" initiatives for families and discusses their effectiveness. It includes recommendations for changes in state and federal policies based on the reviewing housing plus literature and interviews with staff at eight large regional nonprofit organizations that provide such programs.

Dick, Andrew. 2007. "Blight fight." Planning. June, 44-46.

  • Abandoned properties and vacant lots have become a burden in Detroit's neighborhoods as opportunities for crime. This article describes an aggressive approach to nuisance abatement where the county has the power to pursue lawsuits and permanently seize properties.

Hollander, Justin B. 2011. "Surprising Facts from the Census." Planning. March, 44. Available at

  • An analysis of the 2010 U.S. Census results reveals that Sun Belt states that experienced growth before the recession were hardest hit in its wake, and some of them lost population. This column briefly addresses the importance of planning for depopulation by thinking in terms of "smart decline."

Hollander, Justin B. 2011. Sunburnt Cities: The Great Recession, Depopulation and Urban Planning in the American Sunbelt. London / New York: Routledge. Available for purchase at

  • The author researches urban decline in Rustbelt and Sunbelt cities, arguing that urban development could be achieved through smart shrinkage. Case studies that include statistics, literature, and individual stories from Phoenix; Flint, Michigan; Orlando, Florida; and Fresno, California, support the author's position that growth for growth's sake in not beneficial for those communities, and alternatives beyond growth policies should be explored to create sustainable communities.

Hollander, Justin B., and Jeremy Nemeth. 2011. "The bounds of smart decline: A foundational theory for planning shrinking cities." Housing Policy Debate 21(3): 349-367. Available at

  • As more cities have felt the impact of population decline throughout the U.S., there is a greater need to understand smart decline practices. Using observations of various cities, this paper advances a foundational theory of smart decline that takes as its starting point discussions of ethics, equity, and social justice in the planning and political theory literature.

Hollander, Justin B. 2011. "Can a city successfully shrink? Evidence from survey data on neighborhood quality." Urban Affairs Review 47(1): 129-141.

  • In this paper the author examines survey data on perceptions of neighborhood quality in cities with population decline. Contrary to the negative mindset one would expect, the results showed a show a high level of heterogeneity among shrinking cities in terms of perceptions of neighborhood quality: some cities experiencing loss in both housing and population showed an increase in overall perceptions of neighborhood quality.

Hollander, Justin B. 2010. "Moving towards a shrinking cities metric: Analyzing land use changes associated with depopulation in Flint, Michigan." Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research 12(1): 133-151.

  • Cities with declining populations do not shrink uniformly; some neighborhoods experience more drastic physical impacts, such as housing abandonment, than other neighborhoods. Using data from a detailed study of Flint, Michigan, this paper works towards creating metrics that may be useful in implementing smart decline practices.

Hollander, Justin B., Karina Pallagst, Terry Schwarz, and Frank Popper. 2009. "Planning shrinking cities." Progress in Planning 72(4): 223-232. (special issue: Emerging Research Areas).

  • This article explores some creative and innovative ways that scholars and practitioners have responded to declines in populations across the globe. Instead of taking the traditional approach of instigating economic development strategies and other growth strategies that have been shown to fail, a new emerging approach reframes shrinking cities beyond the economic view.

Krohe Jr., James. 2011. "The Incredible Shrinking City." Planning. November, 10-15. Available at

  • According to the 2010 Census, almost three dozen U.S. cities that had populations over 100,000 in 1950 have lost at least 20 percent of their residents. Cities like Buffalo; Cleveland; Detroit; Flint, Michigan; and Youngstown, Ohio, have attempted to find new ways to manage "smart decline." To prevent blight from property abandonment and foreclosure, some cities have sped up or bypassed the process for tax foreclosures. Other cities have stimulated demand for properties by creating land banks in which parcels can be assembled together for redevelopment.

LaCroix, Catherine J. 2011. "Urban Green Uses: The New Renewal." Planning & Environmental Law 63(5): 3-13. Available at

  • The author discusses how cities like Cleveland, Detroit, and Youngstown, Ohio, have adopted an array of innovative green uses for vacant and surplus land in order to revitalize the city and serve its residents. Green resources discussed are urban agriculture, community green spaces, alternative energy, and green infrastructure.

Lucy, William H. 2010. Foreclosing the Dream: How America's Housing Crisis Is Reshaping our Cities and Suburbs. Chicago: Planners Press.

  • This book describes the foreclosure rates in 236 counties in the 35 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. It includes an assessment of what the housing crisis will mean for the shapes of our exurbs, older suburbs, and central cities.

Morley, David. 2010. "Meeting the Vacant Property Challenge." Zoning Practice, June.

  • The ongoing foreclosure crisis and subsequent recession have led to the proliferation of vacant properties, both in perpetual hard-luck cities like Detroit and in boomtowns such as San Diego. This article briefly examines the key components of successful comprehensive vacant property revitalization efforts and highlights specific regulatory and programmatic strategies that local governments can use to improve code enforcement efforts and facilitate the recycling of vacant properties.

Pantalone, Stephen, and Justin B. Hollander. 2011. "The Relaxed Zoning Overlay: A Tool for Addressing the Property Vacancy Cycle." Zoning Practice. September.

  • Vacant properties are a significant drain on city resources, both in terms of lost revenue from falling property values and in increased expenses from crime and vandalization. The purpose of the relaxed zoning overlay (RZO) is to mitigate these impacts by anticipating decline and adapting the property supply in a given community. This article introduces the RZO as a potential new tool for cities in transition and includes a suggested ordinance framework for this new type of overlay.

Planning and the Black Community Division, APA. 2009. "Vision for Broadway." Final Report: PBCD Technical Assistance for Gary, Indiana. Available at

  • Broadway, the city's major transportation artery which used to be a symbol of Gary, Indiana's strength, now features the most obvious expressions of the city's decline. This report is culmination of developing a community vision that would strike a balance between encouraging development while protecting the sense of place. The project identified strategies, including equitable development, smart growth, context-sensitive design, and heritage preservation.

Raitt, Jennifer M., and Mariana Arcaya. 2010. "Foreclosure: Community Impacts, Prevention, and Stabilization Strategies." PAS Memo. September. Available at

  • This issue of PAS Memo takes a look at how communities are impacted by foreclosures, what cities are doing to prevent and respond to foreclosures, and how planners can develop a strategy to address foreclosures in their communities and help stabilize neighborhoods.

Schilling, Joseph, and Jonathan Logan. 2008. "Greening the Rust Belt: A Green Infrastructure Model for Right Sizing America's Shrinking Cities." Journal of the American Planning Association 74(4): 451-466. Available at (free to APA member JAPA subscribers who log in through

  • The authors propose to right-size shrinking cities by using a new model that institutes green infrastructure plans and programs, creates land banks to manage the effort, and builds community consensus through collaborative neighborhood planning.

Shigley, Paul. 2008. "Fixing Foreclosure." Planning. June, 6-10.

  • The author discusses how foreclosures are impacting communities around the country. Various local governments are experimenting with different programs to either prevent foreclosure or manage abandoned buildings.

Smith, Roger G. 2007. "Last, Best Chance." Planning, April, 18.

  • The Youngstown 2010 plan received APA's Public Outreach Award because of its unique approach of rallying community leaders, volunteers, and the public to become actively involved in creating a plan that addressed the declining population of the city.

Talen, Emily. 2009. Urban Design Reclaimed: Tools, Techniques, and Strategies for Planners. Chicago: Planners Press.

  • Urban design is an important part of creating a more vibrant, sustainable community; many cities in transition can use urban design to help make that community while creating more economic value. This how-to book provides an urban design vocabulary and corresponding set of applications created for planners without an architecture background.

Background/Historic Articles and Research

Beauregard, Robert A. 2003. Voices of Decline: The Postwar Fate of U.S.Cities. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.

  • A history of the modern American city, this book discusses the "urban crisis" in the 20th century. While shedding light on blind spots that caused urban decay, the author also suggests that changes in public policy resulted in urban "renaissances" in the 1990s.

Bonham, Jr., J. Blaine, Gerri Spilika, and Darl Rastorfer. 2002. Old Cities/Green Cities: Communities Transform Unmanaged Land. Planning Advisory Service Report no. 506/507. Chicago: American Planning Association. Available at

  • This report, developed from Pennsylvania Horticultural Society documents, addresses the challenges to urban areas caused by vacant land. It addresses large-scale greening systems, vacant land as a neighborhood resource, and the link between urban renewal and sprawl. Includes an in-depth look at some of the society programs.

Byrum, Oliver E. 1992. Old Problems in New Times: Urban Strategies for the 1990s. Chicago: Planners Press.

  • This book discusses various central city planning strategies in order to identify the potential and successes of many central city improvement efforts while the social conditions of other parts of the same cities continue to decline. The report was sponsored by the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, University of Minnesota.

Dawkins, Casey J., & Nelson, Arthur C. 2003. "State Growth Management Programs and Central-City Revitalization." Journal of the American Planning Association 69(4): 381–396. Available at (free to APA member JAPA subscribers who log in through

  • In order to evaluate growth management programs, the authors develop a framework for thinking about the effects of state growth management programs, specifically a central city's ability to attract new residential construction activity. The findings suggest that state growth management programs may be an effective tool for promoting the revitalization of central cities.

Dewar, Margaret. 2006. "Selling Tax-Reverted Land: Lessons from Cleveland and Detroit." Journal of the American Planning Association 72(2): 167-180. Available at (free to APA member JAPA subscribers who log in through

  • Detroit and Cleveland have used different approaches in dealing with widespread property abandonment. This article compares the two cities' approaches, finding that Cleveland's land bank has been an effective approach to selling tax-reverted land for reuse, while Detroit's method has not been as effective.

Finnerty Jr., Thomas A. 2003. "Youngstown Embraces Its Future." Planning. August, 14-19.

  • This article discusses recent local history and the Youngstown 2010 planning process. Through the unique collaborative planning process and input from residents and businesses, Youngstown, Ohio, identified four platforms as the basis of the vision: accepting Youngstown as a smallish community, defining Youngstown's role in the new regional economy, improving Youngstown's image and enhancing the quality of life, and a call to action.

Gasser, William. 1979."The Southeast Land Bank." Journal of the American Planning Association 45(4): 532-537. Available at (free to APA member JAPA subscribers who log in through

  • This article documents the creation of a community-controlled urban redevelopment corporation to protect an area from speculative pressures and neighborhood blight. This experience provides valuable lessons for community organizations that want to participate in their communities' revitalization.

Galster, George, Peter Tatian and John Accordino. 2006. "Targeting investments for neighborhood revitalization." Journal of the American Planning Association 72(4): 457–474. Available at (free to APA member JAPA subscribers who log in through

  • Examining the revitalization strategy in Richmond, Virginia, this article finds that the program produced substantially greater appreciation in the market values of single-family homes in the targeted areas than in comparable homes in similarly distressed neighborhoods. Implications are that the strategy could be self-financing over a 20-year horizon, with public contributions offset by future increments in property tax revenues from target areas.

Hill, Edward W., and John Brennan. 2005. "America's Central Cities and the Location of Work: Can Cities Compete with Their Suburbs?" Journal of the American Planning Association 71(4): 411-432. Available at (free to APA member JAPA subscribers who log in through

  • The authors draw five lessons from an analysis of the competitive position of central cities in the job market and correlations between city and suburban job growth rates. Their findings: in central cities economic distress persists; employment growth in central cities is dependent on healthy regional employment growth; any economic development planning should reflect private companies' concern for profits; an educated workforce is needed for economic success; and central city governments should practice the habits of growth, without neglecting to plan for the long term.

Leigh, Nancey Green, and Lynn M. Patterson. 2006. "Deconstructing to Redevelop: A Sustainable Alternative to Mechanical Demolition." Journal of the American Planning Association 72(2): 217–225. Available at (free to APA member JAPA subscribers who log in through

  • This article discusses "deconstruction" — selectively disassembling buildings rather than demolishing them mechanically — which can yield new jobs, workforce skills training, and small business development, and can conserve natural resources. Includes existing and potential policies that support the use of deconstruction in redevelopment projects.

Lucy, William H., and David L. Phillips. 2006. Tomorrow's Cities, Tomorrow's Suburbs. Chicago: Planners Press. Available at

  • The authors document cases of the reversal of city decline, while noting signs of decline in many suburbs. They offer practical policies for steps that planners, elected officials, and citizens can take so both cities and suburbs can thrive.

Mendes, W., K. Balmer, T. Kaethler, and A. Rhoads. "Using Land Inventories to Plan for Urban Agriculture: Experiences from Portland and Vancouver." Journal of the American Planning Association 74(4): 435-450. Available at (free to APA member JAPA subscribers who log in through

  • Urban agriculture as a way to plan for a more sustainable community has been used to varying degrees of success in cities experiencing population decline. This article compares two Pacific Northwest cities that used municipal land inventories to identify potential urban agriculture public land.

Popper, Deborah E., and Frank J. Popper. 2002. "Small Can Be Beautiful." Planning. July, 20.

  • An overview of the concurrent trends of small town decline in the Great Plains and urban decline in the rust belt. Includes a discussion on "smart decline" and how to best funnel resources to serve those who stay behind.

Perloff, H.S. 1980. Planning the Post-Industrial city. Washington, D.C: Planners Press.

  • A classic volume that discusses the role of urban planning during a period of transition.

Porter, Douglas R., and Matthew R. Cuddy. 2006. Project Rating/Recognition Programs for Supporting Smart Growth Forms of Development. Planning Advisory Service Report no. 538. Chicago: American Planning Association. Available at

  • This report explains the purposes and procedures of a variety of ratings systems and discusses their effectiveness in assessing Smart Growth. Case studies are provided.

Ryznar, Rhonda M., and Thomas W. Wagner. 2001. "Using Remotely Sensed Imagery to Detect Urban Change: Viewing Detroit from Space." Journal of the American Planning Association 67(3): 327-336. Available at (free to APA member JAPA subscribers who log in through

  • The authors analyze the net vegetation change in Detroit between 1975 and 1992 using GIS data from NASA. The change in vegetation strongly correlated with patterns of social, economic, and demographic data. This suggests that processes of urban growth and decline, population shifts, and changes in urban form can be monitored from space.

Stromberg, Meghan. 2005. "Tough Love in Buffalo." Planning. October, 6-11.

  • After decades of population decline, Buffalo has created a new comprehensive plan designed to make it healthy, attractive, and stable city with about half the population size of its peak years. Buffalo is attempting a number of strategies: improving economic development through medical research and tourism, demolishing abandoned buildings, and making downtown and neighborhoods more livable. The biggest obstacle is a public perception of how planning will make the community a better place to live.

Thomas, June M. 1990. "Planning and Industrial Decline Lessons from Postwar Detroit." Journal of the American Planning Association 56(3): 297-310. Available at (free to APA member JAPA subscribers who log in through

  • This article examines one city's public policy history in countering industrial exodus. The authors recommend that economic development efforts must adjust to new realities; Rust Belt cities like Detroit need broader policies designed to help remedy important social and economic problems.

International Resources

Hollander, Justin B., and Frank J. Popper. 2007. "Planning practice and the shrinking city: Reversing the land use allocation model." Plan Canada 47(2): 38-40.

  • Cities in Canada have been trying to address the challenges of declining cities but there are new techniques to address shrinkage. This paper offers a new approach about thinking decline and challenging the planning profession to engage in "smart decline."

Oswalt, Philipp, ed. 2006. Shrinking cities, volume 2: Interventions. Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag.

  • Shrinking cities are a problem across the world. The book provides an international overview of concepts and strategies for shrinking cities in various fields. A series of essays critically discusses current projects in North America, Europe, and Japan.

Wiechmann, T. 2008. "Errors expected — aligning urban strategy with demographic uncertainty in shrinking cities." International Planning Studies 13(4): 431-446.

  • As cities in Europe began to experience population decreases, they had to address demographic, economic, and physical issues to plan and create for smaller but livable cities. Using Dresden, Germany, as a focus, the authors found that planners no longer used growth-oriented objectives but focused on a model for creating a compact "European city." As this strategy resulted in unexpected growth, the need for strategic flexibility become increasingly important in planning for shrinking cities.

General APA Resources

American Planning Association. 2002. Policy Guide on Planning for Sustainability. Available at

  • In this policy guide, the APA lays out a set of suggested principles and policy agendas for achieving sustainability. Appendix A provides a detailed list of "Planning Actions Towards Sustainability" across a number of planning areas.

American Planning Association. 2002. Policy Guide on Smart Growth. Available at

  • Smart Growth seeks to refocus a larger share of regional growth within central cities and inner suburbs. This guide includes a definition of Smart Growth, description of the issue, specific policy motions, and outcomes that can be achieved by implementing these policies.

American Planning Association. 2004. Policy Guide on Public Redevelopment. Available at

  • This policy guide provides information and ideas on underutilized properties, legislative trends, unique places, public/private partnerships, and blighted area redevelopment. It is intended to establish policies that will increase the effectiveness of planners in formulating and implementing redevelopment policies and programs.

American Planning Association. 2007. Policy Guide on Community and Regional Food Planning. Available at

  • In this policy guide, the APA provides a vision and suggests ways for planners to become engaged in community and regional food planning. It presents seven general policies and the roles planners can play for each policy.

Downs, Anthony. 2005. "Smart Growth: Why We Discuss It More than We Do It." Journal of the American Planning Association 71 (4): 367–378. Available at (free to APA member JAPA subscribers who log in through

  • The author discusses why the number of places that follow Smart Growth policies are outnumbered by those where such policies are commonly discussed but rarely practiced effectively. Consulting a number of Smart Growth advocates, including urban planners, government officials, environmentalists, and real estate developers, this article analyzes how Smart Growth policies can become reality.

Feiden, Wayne, and Elisabeth M. Hamin. 2011. Assessing Sustainability: A Guide for Local Governments. Planning Advisory Service Report no. 565. Chicago: American Planning Association. Available at

  • Attempting to understand the real concepts underlying sustainability, this report offers useful information about understanding how sustainable development can be used for local governments. Tying goals with identification of useful benchmarks, indicators, and metrics, planners can evaluate and measure the success of various public policies for sustainability.

Oregon Transportation and Growth Management Program and American Planning Association. 1998. The Principles of Smart Development. Planning Advisory Service Report no. 479. Chicago: American Planning Association. Available at

  • This report describes a development approach that adheres to the following principles: efficient use of land resources; full use of urban services; mixed use; transportation option; details; human-scale design; and implementation. It offers guidance to communities in determining whether local codes and standards encourage, support, or impede smart development.

Meck, Stuart. 2002. Growing Smart Legislative Guidebook, 2002 Edition. Chicago: American Planning Association. Available at

  • This guidebook contains model statutes for planning and the management of change. It includes chapters about a wide range of state, regional, and local planning issues such as regional tax-base sharing, innovative land-use options, incentive systems, traditional neighborhood development, affordable housing, farmland and historic preservation, economic redevelopment, and tax increment financing.


Some of these events may offer Certification Maintenance (CM) credit. Click on the listings links for details.

Barco, Carolina, Robert N. Brown, Jay Williams, and Jason Jordan. 2011. "Cities in Transition: Today's Realities and the Next Economies." AICP Symposium. Presentation to the 2011 AICP Symposium. Available at

  • This podcast and presentation provide examples of initiatives from around the country reinventing techniques for new economic development for ever changing cities.

Bier, Thomas. 2007. "Effects of Regional Housing Dynamics on Older Suburbs." Presented at Tuesdays at APA–Chicago. Available at

  • A presentation on the new suburban decline and the opportunities it creates for advances in public policies that affect development, population movement, and tax bases in cities and suburbs. A number of midwestern "first suburbs" coalitions have formed to combat this decline, including the Ohio First Suburbs Consortium, which focuses on the Cleveland area.

Trotter, Joanna, and Hubert Morgan. 2011. "Gary and Region Investment Project." Presentation at Tuesdays at APA–Chicago. Available at

  • This podcast and presentation focuses on Gary and Region Investment Project (GRIP), taking a regional approach towards transformative projects with the aim of stabilizing and reinvesting in the urban core. Joanna Trotter from the Metropolitan Planning Council and Hubert Morgan from the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning commission provide an overview of GRIP and provided an update on progress to date.

Recent Past Events

AICP Symposium. April 16, 2012. "Realities and Economies of Transitioning Cities (S535)." Presentation at APA's 2012 National Planning Conference.

  • Cities are always transitioning, requiring planners to reinvent techniques for new economic development. Explore initiatives from around the country that are creating opportunities for effective and equitable development.

Anderson, FAICP, William R., Terry F. Holzheimer, FAICP, Rhonda G. Phillips, AICP, and Juli Beth Hinds, AICP. April 16, 2012. "What Is Happening to America? (S620)". Presentation at APA's 2012 National Planning Conference.

  • This session will not only look at the trends that will face the next generation of planners, but let you know how to get involved now in shaping the future. Planning is about prosperity; learn how we can work together to create not only prosperity, but economic sustainability.

Fagg, Flinn, and Joseph Schilling. April 16, 2012. "Sun Belt Cities in Transition (S535)." Presentation at APA's 2012 National Planning Conference.

  • Many Sun Belt cities left reeling by the Great Recession are faced with the challenge of charting a new course. For now, it is unclear when and if the boom times will return. Explore trends and prospects for these acutely distressed cities and hear how some pioneering places are responding to demographic and economic changes by transitioning to more sustainable and equitable development patterns.

Greene, Jamie A., and Ian Beniston. April 14, 2012. "Investment and Hope Amid Population Decline (S404)." Presentation at APA's 2012 National Planning Conference.

  • Explore ways to transform shrinking, single-industry communities into sustainable, thriving ones. The challenge for planners is helping these towns, cities and regions transition from their former growth-fueled policies, plans, and development patterns into downsized, enduring places. Hear how two midwestern cities are managing job and population loses.

Mallach, Alan, Theresa Schwarz, and Flinn Fagg. April 16, 2012. "Planner's Role in Regenerating Distressed Communities (S579)." Presentation at APA's 2012 National Planning Conference.

  • Learn how planners can play a more creative and catalytic role in designing and implementing strategic planning efforts, building stronger community engagement, developing neighborhood-driven projects, and implementing short- and long-range programs and plans. Shrinking cities demand that planners be activists, not regulators. Discover how to be a change agent and work in tandem with other public and private actors.

Schilling, Joseph. April 15, 2012. "Planning for Prosperity (P008)." Presentation at APA's 2012 National Planning Conference.

  • How can shrinking cities be regenerated? Joe Schilling will present APA's new PAS Report, Cities in Transition.