Small Opportunity Cities: Transforming Small Post-Industrial Cities into Resilient Communities
This policy paper focuses on some aspects of how small and medium size weak-market, post-industrial, and/or underinvested places can become more resilient and sustainable. As an urban and regional policy fellow for The German Marshall Fund the United States in spring 2015, the author traveled to three small European cities — Derry, Northern Ireland, York, England, and Vejle, Denmark — to explore how each had crafted a long-term revitalization strategy. As a director of planning and sustainability, he is interested in how these lessons apply to his own city, Northampton, Massachusetts. Similar with other post-industrial and weak-market neighborhoods and cities, Northampton has more than its share of obsolete infrastructure, a growing divide between working class and professional class workers, large homeless and low income populations, a relatively weak market that makes investment in new downtown buildings difficult, no net population growth, and median income significantly below that of the state. The investigation in three small European communities shows that a revitalization panacea does not exist, but the most effective way to build a stronger community is to build on a community’s own unique history, assets, and opportunities.