Shrink to survive

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This article is about the demolition of unpopulated areas. For the withdrawal of municipal services from areas, see planned shrinkage.
Shrink to survive is used in cities with a large number of abandoned buildings, such as this home in Detroit.

Shrink to survive is a term used in the United States to refer to urban planning policies in which city governments demolish unpopulated and abandoned sections of cities.[1] Such proposals, which began around 2009, entail razing entire districts within some cities or else bulldozing them to return the land to its pre-construction rural state.[2] The policies have been studied not only by municipal and state authorities but also by the federal government, and may affect dozens of declining cities in the United States.[3] One report suggested that 50 U.S. cities were potential candidates, and include Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Memphis.[2] Proponents claim the plan will bring efficiency with less waste and fraud;[2] detractors complain the policy has been a "disaster" and advocate for a community-based efforts instead.[4] Previous failures in urban renewal, especially planned shrinkage, has created opposition to shrink to survive.[5]

Shrink to survive was initiated by Dan Kildee during his term as Treasurer of Genesee County, Michigan.[6] He proposed it as a way to handle municipal problems in Flint, which had experienced an exodus of people and business during the automobile industry downturn.[7] Flint had been described as one of the poorest Rust Belt cities.[2] One estimate was that its population had declined by half since 1950.[7][8] In 2002, authorities established a "municipal land bank" to buy abandoned or foreclosed homes to prevent them from being bought up by real estate speculators.[6] One report was that by the summer of 2009, 1,100 homes in Flint had been bulldozed and that another 3,000 had been scheduled for demolition. One estimate was that the city's size would shrink by twenty per cent,[1][6] while a second estimate was that it needed to contract by 40% to once again become viable financially.

Shrink to survive has been enacted in other medium-sized cities in the American Rust belt such as the Michigan city Benton Harbor,[9] as well as the Ohio city of Youngstown.[10] One report suggested that city authorities in Youngstown had demolished 2,000 derelict homes and businesses.[10] In addition, shrink-to-survive has been considered for inner city suburbs of Detroit.[7]

Municipal authorities in Gary, Indiana are considering plans to shrink the city by 40%, possibly by demolition or possibly by letting Nature overgrow abandoned buildings, as a way to raise values for existing structures, reduce crime, and restore the city to fiscal health.[11] The city has suffered a sustained decline in job losses and a consequent housing bust.[11]

Abandoned properties tear at a city’s social fabric. Vacant homes, empty lots and illegal dumps make remaining residents feel isolated, kill community spirit, and breed crime. Providing city services to largely-abandoned neighborhoods wreaks havoc on Gary’s budget.

—Nick Bogert, NBC News, June 2013[11]

Other uses of the term[edit]

The term has been used to describe a downsizing business strategy.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Tom Leonard (12 Jun 2009). "US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive: Dozens of US cities may have entire neighbourhoods bulldozed as part of drastic "shrink to survive" proposals...". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-01-02. 
  2. ^ a b c d Cal Thomas (June 16, 2009). "Bulldozing American cities". The Washington Times. Retrieved November 16, 2012. The Obama administration reportedly is considering whether to broaden an experimental “shrink to survive” program in Flint, Mich.,... 
  3. ^ The Calgary Herald (June 13, 2009). "U.S. cities may bulldoze entire neighbourhoods". Retrieved November 16, 2012. ... neighbourhoods bulldozed as part of drastic "shrink to survive" proposals being considered by the Obama administration to tackle economic decline.... 
  4. ^ Richard Florida (June 1, 2011). "How Not to ‘Save’ a City". The New York Times. Retrieved November 16, 2012. ...initiatives to clear urban neighborhoods ... have been a disaster. ... organic, bottom-up, community-based efforts... 
  5. ^ Roberta Brandes Gratz (August 4, 2012). "Saving Shrinking Cities". Huffington Post. Retrieved February 21, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c Gary Lamphier of the Edmonton Journal (August 25, 2009). "A Rust Belt remedy for the U.S. housing glut: bulldozers". Retrieved November 16, 2012. Dan Kildee is getting a lot of attention these days. His radical ideas for fixing the glutted U.S. housing market and breathing new life into struggling cities like Flint, Mich., 
  7. ^ a b c Ellen Dunham-Jones (June 27, 2011). "What About the Suburbs?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-12-31. 
  8. ^ DAVID STREITFELD (April 21, 2009). "An Effort to Save Flint, Mich., by Shrinking It". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-01-02. 
  9. ^ RACHEL NOLAN (interviewer), Jonathan Mahler (interviewee) (December 19, 2011). "Behind the Cover Story: Jonathan Mahler on Benton Harbor". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-01-02. 
  10. ^ a b Mary Jordan of The Washington Post (September 9, 2009). "Traficant's release from prison stirs strong emotions". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved November 16, 2012. ... Rust Belt cities are copying Youngstown's demolition of 2,000 derelict homes and businesses, a "shrink to survive" strategy. 
  11. ^ a b c Nick Bogert, June 19, 2013, NBC News, Battered city of Gary, Ind., considers shrinking 40 percent to save itself, Accessed June 19, 2013
  12. ^ Tim Winship (June 25, 2008). "For mileage programs, the worst is yet to come". USA Today. Retrieved November 16, 2012. ...the shrink-to-survive strategy confined to the U.S. airlines...