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For One Ohio City, Getting Over ‘Glory Days’ Was a Good Thing

Youngstown did well following a concept called “smart shrinkage”

The tale of Youngstown, Ohio, isn’t an uncommon ine for urban planners in the Midwest. The once-thriving steel city took a steep population dive in the late 20th century, joining a cohort of other Rust Belt towns desperately trying—and mostly failing—to get their groove back

But in 2005, Youngstown did something novel. The city stopped working to boost population numbers and ditched attempts to return to the city’s glory days. Instead, Youngstown accepted the fact that from now on, they would be small.

But like a "size 40 man wearing a size 60 suit," the town had enough buildings and infrastructure for a population more than three times its actual size. Controversially, they elected to consolidate city services and resources into the neighborhoods with the most people, revitalizing some areas and demolishing abandoned homes in others.

More than a decade later, Youngstown’s population has decreased by just 1,000 people—a remarkably low number for what was once the fastest-shrinking city in the country. And many of those demolished neighborhoods are becoming home to new kinds of farms and green industries.

"I definitely think [other Rust Belt towns] can learn from what we are doing here, especially smaller to medium-sized, shrinking cities throughout the Midwest," said Ian Beniston, director of the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation in an interview with Route Fifty.

Source: Route Fifty