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A Research Agenda for Shrinking Cities

Justin B. Hollander

This prescient book presents the intellectual terrain of shrinking cities while exploring the key research questions in each of the field’s sub-domains and reviewing the range of methodologies within these topics.
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Chapter 4: Neighborhood action

Justin B. Hollander


I tell people I do research on shrinking cities and mostly they recount the story of a vacant lot or abandoned building near where they work, live, or visit. “Oh, I know what you mean, abandoned buildings, really awful,” they typically say. As bipedal mammals, we experience places at a neighborhood scale. We think about the streets, parks, and other amenities in the immediate surroundings that we can see.

Perched on a front porch in a Norman Rockwell average American town, we might look out and see the roads, sidewalks, and housing that, in totality, constitute a mental image of our neighborhoods. Some housing is not located in residential neighborhoods, but the vast majority is. In built-up areas of the U.S, residential land totals 881 299 acres, commercial land is 20 540 acres, and the remaining 200 266 acres are a mix of industrial, transportation, and institutional lands (Theobald 2014). What that means is that, for most Americans, looking out their windows they primarily see other homes and roads and other related elements that stitch such neighborhoods together. Except for places like Portland (Oregon, U.S.A.) or Montreal (Quebec, Canada), where the view from a high elevation allows one to appreciate an entire region, most people live day to day in their own residential neighborhood or the neighborhoods of their school or work.

This chapter takes the residential neighborhood, the one most of us call home, as a central analytical frame to view the shrinking cities phenomenon....

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