Wednesday afternoon, I managed to get a few hours off from the job and drove down to my alma mater for the first College of Urban Affairs Forum of the new school year. It was a presentation by Alan Mallach of his new book The Divided City: Poverty and Prosperity in Urban America. A Senior Fellow at the Center for Community Progress, his book looks at national trends in American cities when it comes to community revitalization, gentrification, and the effects they all have on residents.
“Even as these cities are reviving, they are becoming more unequal and more segregated. Mr. Mallach told the audience near the beginning of his presentation. There seems to be a hierarchy of revival in city neighborhoods. He is also unsure if this revival is sustainable in the long run. In some ways, his findings on job growth in the central city meshes with the ‘Eds and Meds’ study created by Richey Piiparinen and Jim Russell a few years ago. However, the jobs being created aren’t going to the people who live here. For example, in Cleveland, one out of the five of the 250,000 jobs created in Cleveland in the past few years are held by people who don’t live there. In fact, hyper-abandonment is still happening on a large-scale in many areas (think Glenville), and this is in fact a nation-wide phenomenon. Basically, despite all the hoopla, more neighborhoods are declining rather than gentrifying. Mr. Mallach believes that cities have to once again be places of opportunity for everyone. Later he did cite things cities are doing right now to try to adress these problems. For example, in Pittsburgh there is a shared effort and common ground between City Hall, Institutions like Carnegie-Mellon Unviersity, and major corporations. they have kept the effort to turn their city around going for 70 years.
He was joined by a panel featuring not just Roland Anglin, the Dean of the Maxine Goodman Levine College of Urban Affairs, but also Joel Ratner who is the CEO for Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, Frank Ford of the Thriving Communities Institute (who was instrumental in suggesting this for the Forum series), and Freddie Collier Jr., the Director of the Cleveland City Planning Commission. They were all brave enough to stay for the question and answer period (which wasn’t too bad anyway). Frank Ford for one feels that the blight removal work done by the City of Cleveland (in places like Collinwood) and the Cuyahoga County Land Bank are still important ten years after the sub-prime mortgage meltdown. Meanwhile, Joel Ratner cited such programs as the Slavic Village Rediscovered program as a local program that seems to be doing everything right in stabilizing a community (in this case around Fleet Avenue).
There were copies of the book available afterwards to purchase but I think I’ll wait a few months before I take it out of the library. To be honest, a lot of what was discussed Wednesday has been talked and written about before. However, it was still a very intersting presentation for everyone there.
Photographs by James Valentino