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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 7: Measuring success in a shrinking city

Justin B. Hollander


What does it mean to do good city planning? While it may seem late in the book to consider such a weighty question, the answer hinges on a quite important dimension of shrinking cities research that works well here at the tail end of the book. Taking a normative turn, I ask here for the reader to consider the very big picture: What are we trying to accomplish in the field of urban studies? Susan Fainstein (2010) famously wrote about the just city. For her, the planning professorate had obsessed too long over the process of good city-making without enough attention to the outcomes. Fainstein, along with many others, has long argued for a particular view of what a good outcome of city planning should be, a vision of just and fair systems that do not privilege the wealthy and powerful. Others have paid closer attention to ensuring just processes of urban intervention. In her Planning with Complexity (2010) book, Judith Innes, along with David Booher, culminates decades of her own and others’ research with a powerful statement of her own about the very postmodern approach we ought to employ to plan our cities: hyper-focus on just processes that will ensure just outcomes.

In my own scholarship, I have found that attention to process alone feels empty and lacking in the physical substance of what is going on in cities. I feel that an examination of outcomes may be preferable, but assessing just one outcome over another seems...

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