News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Meaden & Moore

Greater Akron Chamber

Don Drumm Studios


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Ohio


Shrinking rust-belt cities: an Italian view
The author of "Apocalypse Town" sees a lot to admire in how old Midwestern cities are planning their smaller futures
by WKSU's MARK URYCKI


Senior Reporter
Mark Urycki
 
Apocalypse Town is not yet available in English
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

While Americans dream of visiting Rome and Florence and Venice, Alessandro Coppola of Milan dreams of seeing Youngstown, Cleveland, and Detroit.  Coppola has written a book about shrinking rust-belt cities and finds their efforts to deal with new economic realities to be both fascinating and laudable.   WKSU’s Mark Urycki reports.

Click to listen

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (4:27)


Global warming will continue to dry out the sunbelt states, baking their cities in summer to such a degree that their populations will move back to the Midwest water belt, bringing industry with them.

It could happen. 

But don’t count on it, says Alessandro Coppola, the author of “Apocalypse Town: Tales from the End of an Urban Civilization.”

This week, Coppola shared his take on rust-belt cities at Cleveland State’s Levin College of Urban Affairs. His country, Italy, hasn’t experienced the enormous mobility that America has, and so people there don’t think of cities as winners or losers.

American competition means winners and losers 
“Someone could ask you ‘Hey Alessandro, how is Rome doing these days?’ And you would be shocked because you would associate, at least in Italy, this kind of question with people, not with cities.  Cities are there to stay.”

That’s why Europeans tend to marvel at the wholesale migration from America’s Midwest to its South in the past 40 years. Italy’s central government plays a larger role in distributing resources to its cities, so Coppola is interested in how American cities and states competed against each other for investment. He says governments here helped to destabilize older cities.

“Cities competing crazily on taxes, on how unions were not welcome in their territories,  on subsidies, on locational packages – all things that in Europe are very hard to do.”

That led to older cities creating enterprise zones and free-trade zones to help revive blighted innercity neighborhoods. But soon, suburban cities were doing the same thing. And then one area would be at war with itself.

“Neighborhood localities would compete for the same capital and people.”

Coppola thinks it’s time to stop thinking each city can grow its way back to prominence. “This mindset has prevented for many here in shrinking cities to accept reality.”

"Smart shrinkage"
Reality, he says, is that rust belt cities will remain smaller. And, by the way, Coppola says his publisher came up with his book title, “Apocalypse Town.” He doesn’t like it. He’s actually impressed by some imaginative ways these cities are adapting.

Among them is Youngstown, where residents are turning vacant lots into vegetable gardens.

In his book, Coppola writes about Youngstown’s re-use of Idora Park, a former amusement park, and how such gardens can be a solution to inner city food deserts.

Eventually, Youngstown and Detroit may take shape as archipelagos, with a city core surrounded by greenbelts and island neighborhoods. That design was proposed in England around 1900 for the utopian concept of a “garden city.”

Coppola finds other examples of turning negatives into positives. He cites the regional sewer district in Cuyahoga County using empty lots to absorb water runoff.

“In order to fix water loss and water pollution in (the) sewage system in the city you can see how in specific cases this availability of empty land is really a great asset in order to experiment (with) more sustainable management of infrastructures.”

Then there’s the Cuyahoga County Land Bank, which has taken over hundreds of foreclosed properties. “Planners around the world would dream to have all this land under public control.”

Grassroots efforts
What excites Coppola is the grassroots way cities like Youngstown and Cleveland and Detroit are dealing with all that.  He’s been traveling around Cleveland, meeting with what he calls an American creation – urban activists. The whole idea of community development corporations – run by everyday citizens to restore neighborhoods -- is foreign to him. 

“Cleveland is an exceptional place because potentially residents have way more of an  edge in shaping the built environment than residents in cities that are way more successful.”

It’s a “do-it-yourself urbanism,” which Alessandro Coppola says gives Cleveland and other Great Lakes cities a chance to move from dystopia to utopia. 


Related WKSU Stories

Youngstown opens Idora gardens
Friday, July 16, 2010

Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook




Stories with Recent Comments

Massive pipeline planned to pump Ohio shale products to Texas
This needs stopped. Ohioans pay the price, putting up with pollution, leaks, explosions, and the top one percent profit from exporting fracked product to China.

National Weather Service confirms three tornado touchdowns yesterday
I was driving back from a party and was caught in the middle of a large thunderstorm. The hail and lightning were a whole light closer than usual, is something ...

Another Indians season opens with Chief Wahoo under scrutiny
The picture you have for Robert rocha is not him. He has long hair. No idea who that guy is in that picture

Portman predicts McDonald's confirmation, but says it won't be easy
I sent the following note to Senator Blumenthal after reading commentary from yesterday's hearing: Senator, You certainly have the right to ask Mr. McDonald que...

Seven minutes changed everything, but what changed Ashford Thompson?
He shot the guy four times in the head. I have never been that drunk or mad, and I have been through it. Shoot a guy once is bad, maybe a mistake, shoot a guy f...

First cricket farm in the U.S. opens in Youngstown
I am interested in cricket flour to replace soy flour in a low carbohydrate diet. As soon as you have cricket flour available for the average person, please le...

New process starts digesting sludge in Wooster
Awesome! When do our sewage rates decrease accordingly?

Akron's Chapel Hill Mall in foreclosure
Not a surprise. Between the shoplifting, gangs and violence that goes on up there it is no wonder that no one feels safe to shop at Chapel Hill. They have sca...

Ohio launches investigation into at least one Concept charter school
I worked at Noble Academy Cleveland as admin assistant and enrolment coordinator for 6 years, I know this is so valid and true and can provide staff names and p...

Copyright © 2014 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University