Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Review essay: who loses when a city develops?

Richard Florida, The New Urban Crisis: How Our Cities are Increasing Inequality, Deepening Segregation, and Failing the Middle Class--and What We Can Do About It (Basic Books, 2017)

Peter Moskowitz, How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality and the Fight for the Neighborhood (Public Affairs, 2017)

We've got to make sure the people here are being lifted up from the rising tide.
--ZAK PASHAK, Detroit (quoted at Moskowitz 2017, p. 76)

Peter Moskowitz has a passion for social justice and a talent for long-form journalism, and both come across in How to Kill a City. Built around four urban case studies--New Orleans, Detroit, San Francisco and New York City--he looks at the harms that have come to individuals and communities in the last decade's urban resurgence. The damage isn't hard to find, either: people priced out of their longtime homes, landmark buildings torn down and neighborhood establishments shuttered, diverse communities taken over by upper middle class whites.

My main complaint with Moskowitz is that his targets, and the rage they inspire, are too easy. It's easy to point to the racist origins of our cities' physical design, to juxtapose the struggles of the marginalized with the amusements of the upper middle class, to nostalgize everything that's lost and find fault with everything that's replaced it. "Every year I'd see fewer sex workers walking down Washington Street at night" (p 164). Or to complain about cultural differences--"The New York that increasingly engulfs me seems even less interesting than I am" (p 163)--or insensitivity. That's too bad, because while there's a fair amount of explanation and a great deal of (mostly justifiable) outrage over what's happened, there's very little by way of alternative course of action (though see pp. 210-213).

Joe Cortright and his colleagues have documented that poor urban neighborhoods that haven't gentrified, and that's most of them, have become more marginalized. Meanwhile the financial, ecological and cultural consequences of suburban sprawl are not sustainable. The path forward for urban neighborhoods is not some unnamed something-that's-way-better-than-gentrification; it's gentrification that takes account of everyone new and old, black and white, rich and poor.

To extend the quotation above, which Moskowitz dismisses as mere rationalization, a non-rising tide doesn't lift any boats. (Or, maybe, in a zero-sum sort of way, a few get rich at the expense of all the others.) A rising tide, though, doesn't necessarily lift all boats. As Moskowitz describes throughout his book, rising tides can also swamp the boats. The answer is not to wish the tide away, or to curse it, but to manage it for the benefit of all.

That is, of course, easier said than done. A number of cities have tried to mitigate the negative effects of gentrification, but their instruments are blunt and their effects uncertain.

Happily Richard Florida, who comes in for his own share of Moskowitz's rage (pp 78-83) as a supposed advocate of unchecked gentrification, is on the case in his latest book, The New Urban Crisis. He describes the causes and ill effects of "winner-take-all urbanism": The most highly prized talent and the most profitable industries, which used to be spread across many smaller and medium-sized cities, increasingly concentrate in a few superstar behemoths (Florida 2017, p 18). Winner-take-all urbanism stems partly from the clustering effect taken to its extreme, but also to "efforts of urban landlords and homeowners to restrict what is built, and in doing so to keep the prices of their own real estate holdings high" (p. 24), and in some "superstar cities," land prices artificially inflated by "the global super-rich... looking for safe places to park their money" (p. 39). As a result, the "creative class" reap all the economic benefits of development, while the service and working classes are often worse off after paying for housing (Table 2.2, p. 31). The less advantaged are shunted into neighborhoods with more crime, worse schools, and the dimmest prospects for upward mobility (pp 149-150) Inequality is most severe in our most successful cities (Fig 6.1, p 110): a 2016 Brookings Institution study found only nine of the top 100 metro areas were more socially inclusive in 2014 than they were in 2005, although nearly all had experienced economic growth during this period (p. 91; the updated version is cited below).

Florida being Florida, there are a lot of data and indexes to measure these phenomena. The ultimate metric is the New Urban Crisis Index (Fig 10.1, p. 187) which combines economic segregation, wage inequality, income inequality and housing affordability. Bridgeport, Connecticut ranks highest overall (.978); Los Angeles is #2 and the top large metro (.972). Of Moskowitz's four cases, New York is #3 (.967) and San Francisco is #6 (.922), while the still-digging-out New Orleans is #36 (.787) and Detroit is #85 (.681).

Cedar Rapids scores a relatively benign .233 which ranks it #316 of 359, but one wonders: Have the costs of post-flood development in hip New Bohemia been borne by the working class people who used to live there (a la New Orleans, described in Moskowitz's chapters 1-3)? Is the MedQuarter going to contribute to an island of prosperity while pushing everyone else away (a la Detroit, described in Moskowitz's chapters 4-6)?

Florida's concluding chapter includes a multi-faceted strategy for a more effective urbanism (pp. 191-215):
 (a) more effective clustering by developing the land we have more effectively and efficiently--deregulating land use but also using tools like land value tax to replace property tax, and tax increment local transfers to overcome local prejudice;
 (b) strategic investments in infrastructure including mass transit and high-speed rail;
 (c) building more affordable rental housing including vouchers;
 (d) turning the tens of millions of low-paid service jobs we are stuck with into higher-paying jobs, including higher but locally-based minimum wage;
 (e) anti-poverty investments in people (providing resources or helping them move to new and better neighborhoods) and neighborhoods (schools & early childhood development);
 (f) to deal with urban disasters abroad, shifting the focus of America's foreign and international development policies from nation-building to city-building; and
 (g) to overcome hostility to urban areas in state and federal governments today, a bipartisan movement of mayors to help cities and communities get the increased control they need to address all these challenges.

Florida's proposals are individually debatable, but provide a starting point for ensuring that everyone has a place at our communities' tables. Moskowitz's passionate accounts serve to show that funding urban development without demanding that benefits flow widely leads to gains at the top, stagnation or misery for everyone else. Cities should develop and develop boldly--and regressive state governments should get out of the way--but must not leave its residents to the mercies of whatever happens.

"Gentrification: What Do We Know?" 26 July 2016
Kristen Jeffers, "Gentrification in Shaw Isn't So Black and White," Greater Greater Washington, 7 July 2017
Richard Shearer, Alec Friedhoff, Isha Shah and Alan Berube, "Metro Monitor: An Index of Inclusive Economic Growth in the 100 Largest U.S. Metropolitan Areas," Brookings Institution, March 2017
Josh Stephens, "Pursuing Inclusion, Equity in the Nation's Capital," Planetizen, 10 July 2017
David Whitehead, "Gentrification in DC is a West-of-the-Park Issue, Too," Greater Greater Washington, 21 July 2017

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Design meetings last week

Two public meetings Tuesday raised issues of neighborhood design in the center of town, including enhancing walkability.

At the Metro Economic Alliance downtown, we got our first look at the wayfinding and branding signage chosen for downtown, the MedQuarter, New Bohemia and Czech Village (with City Council approval and timetable yet to come). The signage was developed by Corbin Design which is headquartered in Traverse City, Michigan.

Drivers would be served by this type of sign, indicating which section they're in, and orientation to other sections and attractions.

Pedestrians could benefit from more detailed markers, including "you are here" type maps and interesting historical facts.

Some signs would show walking times to various attractions, which might encourage people to walk more rather than returning to their cars and re-parking.

A closer look at the map, which is stylized and does not depict actual Cedar Rapids.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Book review: "Dream Hoarders"

Richard V. Reeves, Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That is a Problem, and What to Do About It (Brookings Institution Press, 2017)

The power of Richard V. Reeves's argument is probably best exemplified by the troubled reaction of a New York Times reader. David Anderson of Weston, Florida responded on June 26, 2017, to an op-ed column by Reeves:
My wife and I fall within Richard V. Reeves's target. We met at an Ivy League school in the 1990s and fall within his "healthy six-figure" income range. Our children attend an expensive private school. If you are waiting for us to apologize, don't hold your breath.
Mr. Reeves should leave the Beltway and meet some upper-middle-class Americans. It might be enlightening. We attended good schools because we studied hard. We're not legacies: Nobody else in our families attended an Ivy League school. If you met us 20 years ago, you would have seen two 25-year-olds with no money, swimming in student loans in a roach-infested studio apartment in Manhattan.
We worked around the clock to pay our loans off. Then we started a business with $7,000 of our own money. We've made a nice living grinding away over the last two decades, which you are certainly free to characterize as "luck or a rigged system." 
 We send our children to the best school we can find, and we do so "without so much as a murmur of moral disquiet." Why? Here is one reason: Over the last 20 years, we have paid millions in taxes. What have we gotten in return? Bad public schools not worthy of our children and $20 trillion in federal debt. And we are the problem because we want the best for our children?
Reeves, a British-born economist with the Brookings Institution who is also Co-Director of the Center for Children and Families, takes a nuanced, data-rich look at economic inequality in America. While some of his premises are empirical--a society that constricts opportunity is both less internationally competitive and internally unified, and "a mixed team is a better team" (p. 121)--his principal premise is moral: America prides itself on equality of opportunity but it needs to live up to that ideal better than is currently happening:
I am British by birth, but I have lived in the United States since 2012 and became a citizen in late 2016.... There are lots of reasons I have made America my home. But one of them is the American ideal of opportunity. I always hated the walls created by social class distinctions in the United Kingdom. The American ideal of a classless society is, to me, a deeply attractive one. It has been disheartening to learn that the class structure of my new homeland is, if anything, more rigid than the one I left behind and especially so at the top. (p. 5)
Reeves reasonably allows admits takes the reasonable position that economic inequality is often functional, in that it allows rewards to go to those who do socially useful things. Unequal outcomes that result from fair competition are fine, but they become highly problematic when that inequality becomes ossified across generations. This is, I think, a weakness in Adam Smith's iconic argument for market economies. (I write "I think" because, while my devotion to The Wealth of Nations is passionate, it's a huge work. Not only have I not read all of it, I can't claim I've grasped all the nuances of the parts I have read.) Smith says that in a free market, economic rewards flow to those who are industrious and create things that society values. Those "winners" then have extra money they can spend on luxury goods which the rest of us can envy, which in turn ought to inspire us to be industrious and useful too. OK.

But Smith doesn't as far as I know address round two of the competition. It stands to reason that the winners could spend some of their winnings on political power, in order to insure themselves against competition) as well as buying their children advantages over all other children. Writing in an era where there was real hereditary aristocracy, Smith could be forgiven for not addressing the likelihood that capitalism could quickly create its own ruling class.

Reeves documents two ways in which the children of the winners--defined here as those in the upper 20 percent of incomes, which in 2014 meant families over $112,000--separate themselves from the children of everyone else that tend to limit competition and preserve advantages. He distinguishes the two ways with the help of a metaphor he brings out two or three times: We would look kindly on a father who helps his son get picked as starting pitcher for his school baseball team by practicing with him every evening after work. But we would likely feel differently about a father who secures the coveted lot for his son by bribing the coach (p. 98).

The style in which they're raised gives competitive advantages to the fortunate fifth. Far from doing something wrong, in many of these areas the upper middle class is setting a good example, which others would do well to follow (p. 93). Upper-middle class babies are more likely to be planned pregnancies in a marriage, to be exposed in early childhood to more parental contact, language, trips, and books, and to have better teachers and an easier route to college (ch. 3). This means when they enter the job market, the balance of merit is all on the side of those children (ch. 5).

More perniciously, though, the winners achieve public policies that keep their families on top and other families--with rare exceptions--down. Reeves begins his book with President Obama's 2015 attempt to replace 529 college savings programs, the benefits of which flow largely to the "favored fifth," with a broader program, but which was blocked by united bipartisan opposition in Congress (pp. 1-2). Urbanists will recognize the effects of zoning ordinances to keep exclusive neighborhoods exclusive which restricts access to the opportunities they afford, like "good" schools (ch. 6). Along with the mortgage interest tax deduction, "we are using the tax system to help richer people buy bigger houses near the best schools" (p. 105). Colleges continue these advantages: Who but upper-middle class students can afford to do unpaid internships? (He also has an extended discussion of legacy slots in college admissions, which is so far from my world that I can't comment.) By the time the upper-middle class gets to the job market (pp. 119-121), it's no wonder they appear to be the stronger candidates.

For the upper-middle class to respond to these findings with denial or anger, in the manner of letter-writer Anderson, is to be willfully blind to the tendency of the market system to create its own permanent hierarchy in which they reside. No one can deny that successful people work hard and make good choices; the problem is rather that most people who work hard don't get rewards commensurate with their efforts--which (to extend Smith's logic) has to be discouraging. So is the proper response feelings of guilt? Hardly--for the upper-middle class to respond to these findings with guilt is useless.

We should use our political power to work for a society that supports our common life in a truly inclusive way. Reeves's concluding chapter includes ten policy recommendations. Some deal with the "problem" of upper-middle class parents spending extra time practicing baseball with their kids. In other words, how can we help all parents be able to find that time? He suggests access to better contraception, home visiting programs, encouraging better teachers to work in low-SES neighborhood schools, and expanded housing voucher programs. All would require policy changes, and some would require government outlays. They would also require upper-middle class people to recognize where opportunities for others could be improved, not to mention overcoming silly squeamishness about contraception and government spending.

Things get even trickier politically when policy changes directly address the unearned privileges of upper-middle-class children (analogous to "bribing the coach"). These include an income-contingent college loan system, limiting exclusionary zoning, an end to legacy admissions, making internships more accessible by requiring they be paid, and reforming taxation to end subsidies for the well-off. These require government action, but even before that a "change of heart" among the upper-middle class: recognizing privilege, bringing behavior into line with beliefs about fairness, and a willingness to share the American dream (pp. 14-15).

An economically mobile society could be more unified, because unlike now people are likely to know others at all economic levels. It could also be more humane, if those at the top realize they and their offspring aren't guaranteed to stay there. Reeves quotes "JB," who commented on his 2013 column "The Glass Floor Problem":
Parents' desperation to keep their children in the top 20%... is at least partly driven by their fear of what happens in the 21st century to young people who are in the middle or lower: job insecurity, contingent and contract employment, no health insurance, outsourcing, and the rest. (p. 73)
It's a long way down from the favored fifth. I have argued elsewhere that generating broad career opportunity is one of the core challenges facing us. Maybe one of the reasons solutions are so elusive is that the most politically powerful class feels insulated against the dislocations everyone else has to deal with?

Reeves's analysis is based on social class. Racial and sex discrimination are mentioned and he doesn't argue against their reality (pp. 21-22, e.g.) but the employment market for working-age adults is treated largely as merit-based. Particularly "on the top rungs of society, where market meritocratic values dominate, class barriers are rising, even as those related to race are slowly lowered" (p. 120). This might be seen as a flaw; I'd prefer to see it as focus on one set of serious barriers to opportunity in a world where sex and race also matter.

Elizabeth Mann, "The 'Word Gap' and One City's Plan to Close It," Brown Center Chalkboard, 10 July 2017
Richard V. Reeves, "Don't Want to Be a Dream Hoarder? Here Are 5 Things You Can Do Right Now," Social Mobility Memos, 23 June 2017

"The Future is Exciting and Scary," 24 June 2013
"Is There a 'Natural' Minimum Wage," 15 March 2014
[or click on the Inequality link in the right hand column under "Labels"]

Monday, July 17, 2017

The housing conundrum: Cedar Rapids

Left to right: Stacey Walker, Linn County Board of Supervisors; Laura O'Leary, Landlords of Linn County;
Phoebe Trepp, Willis Dady Homeless Shelter, Lisa Gavin, Iowa Legal Aid;
Jeff Capps, Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity; Jennifer Pratt, City of Cedar Rapids
Some takeaways from this weekend's community conversation on affordable housing:
  1. The focus of the discussion was not on housing for, say, teachers and firefighters, as it might have been in New York or San Francisco. Most of the panelists' concerns dealt with those employed at the low end of the pay scale, people with criminal records, and people with disabilities. Lisa Gavin, staff attorney for Iowa Legal Aid, noted their clients typically pay more than 50 percent of their income for housing--the official standard of "affordable" is below 30--which makes them one crisis away from homelessness. For a typical Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipient, for example, receiving $735 a month, even $300/month rent is not affordable. Dale Todd, who moderated the discussion, cited the well-known situation created by de-institutionalizing mentally ill people without a plan for housing them.
  2. All panelists looked to the federal government for funding. Jennifer Pratt, Cedar Rapids' director of community development, noted that while there are options for housing "at all price points," the problems of low-income people aren't solvable by the private market. Section 8 vouchers work for those who can get them, meaning voucher holders can and do rent apartments, but largely because of limited program resources 80 percent of those who are eligible for Section 8 vouchers don't get them (Phoebe Trepp). The program is, however, "on the chopping block" in President Trump's FY18 budget (Jennifer Pratt). Cedar Rapids has no budget for homelessness, and Linn County provides $30,000 annually, so Willis Dady relies on federal funding and applies for state grants (Phoebe Trepp). Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity provides 6-10 new homes per year, as well as help with repairs, but is looking for ways to help families who aren't homeownership-ready by "creatively leveraging dollars that are out there" (Jeff Capps). In addition to funding, current federal regulation from the Obama administration requires landlords not to excluce all those with criminal records, but to take into account factors like the time and nature of the crime (Dale Todd); that regulation is, of course, subject to change in the Trump administration.
  3. There appeared to be an opening, indeed an eagerness, for dialogue between housing advocates and landlords. While many landlords do not currently accept Section 8 vouchers, those present seemed amenable to doing so if their complaints were addressed like extra leases and inspections (Laura O'Leary). O'Leary noted there is no program available to help landlords make necessary repairs; another landlord, Gary Grimm, such an approach could be used as incentive for landlords to accept Section 8. Lisa Gavin of Iowa Legal Aid, noting that tenants encounter issues of rodents, plumbing, mold and HVAC but often don't act because "I have nowhere else to go," looked forward to collaboration with landlords and community buy-in, with the goals of achieving improved supply with profitability. Jeff Capps, executive director of Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity, also hoped to work with landlords and developers on "bold steps" to respond to the shortage.
One thing they didn't discuss much on the panel is location. There are the core neighborhoods with older housing stock, a lot of which, Dale Todd noted, is deteriorating. But they are also located close to rapidly-developing areas like downtown and New Bohemia (as well as the future MedQuarter) which could if done right provide access to employment. That is less true for people who have moved or been pushed out to Blairs Ferry Road, Johnson Avenue or Pioneer Avenue. The low-income housing complex on Edgewood Road was well-intentioned, but that area is only connected to productive places by car, the ownership of which is either unaffordable or a huge burden to the marginally-employed.

Lastly, Phoebe Trepp of Willis Dady Homeless Shelter noted that "the will is here" to move forward on this issue, but those at the panel are fully occupied with their own tasks. "We need a leader to take this on," she said. How does such a leader emerge?

SEE ALSO: "The Housing Conundrum," 6 June 2017, for a national perspective with source list
Connor Morgan, "Cedar Rapids City Leaders Consider Options to Make Housing More Affordable,", 15 July 2017

Monday, July 10, 2017

Post No. 250: Staying on what really matters

Photo of Cedar Rapids 2016 flood preparation by Ben Kaplan, and stolen shamelessly from his Medium site
When people find out I teach American government, more often than not they try chatting me up about the last election or ask what I think of President Trump. These are not conversations I seek: I've written about the election and about Trump, whose presidency has been as shameful as his campaign was...
Our common life would probably go better if we didn't mock disabled people
...but anyone who knows me knows I'm not a "political junkie" who spends hours watching cable news, fainting with excitement over who's up and who's down in national government, and grooving on manufactured outrage. Maybe I suspect people are too hungry for affirmation, either that I agree with them that Trump is awful, or else that I am an academic elite who can't be trusted.

Trump is awful--he's dishonest even by the standards of the stereotypical politician, he's not a competent manager, and to the extent he has policy ideas they're not good ones--but what good would it do to masticate on this? Early on in this blog, I resolved to focus on what affects our capacity for common life, and I've stuck to that as well as I can. The monumental issues of economic opportunity, sustainability (environmental and financial), and inclusion/diversity would require our sustained attention no matter who was President. Trump, who you have probably deduced I didn't support, is the political equivalent of "F--- it all, let's just go watch cartoons." Too much focus on Trump is actually watching the cartoons. Here on Holy Mountain you and I try to treat serious things seriously.

Consider this: In my town, you know what people are really upset about? Nothing to do with Trump. It's fireworks. Iowa legalized fireworks this year, and they've been going off every night since late May, which is getting on people's nerves. Jean-Paul Sartre told us that's what other people tend to do anyway, but we can't overlook the universal need for some peace and quiet in our lives. Too much noise at night and eventually people get cranky. Now it's up to the City Council to figure out how to achieve that. For the rest of us, the lesson is that national politics can be stimulating, but local conditions are what touch our lives every day.

This summer I've moved my base of operations off the Coe College campus to the Geonetric Building, which is in the heart of local development action. I'm in a co-working space with techies, startups and visionaries, and within a few blocks are hundreds of people helping to make Cedar Rapids succeed in all manner of ways. I've been writing, as you know, loyal reader, mostly updating myself on public policy research and initiatives. There have been some administrative duties for the college. And I need to school myself on Chinese philosophy, which I'm working into my fall course on Ancient and Medieval Political Theory.

But I'm also dipping my toe into "the arena." In my last reflective post, a little over a year ago, I claimed my calling was critical analysis, and was willing to leave the action to others. This summer, however, I've gotten involved in:
  • Imagine Mound View. Corridor Urbanism, the group Ben Kaplan and I started a few years ago, is producing an event this fall in the historic Mound View neighborhood of Cedar Rapids. We're recruiting food vendors, activities, city officials and non-profits to a street fair September 9, with the intent of promoting urbanist-style development in the area. Getting there involves city permits, arranging insurance and recruiting participants. This is way bigger than anything I've ever been involved in planning, and everything requires many hands. I'm so used to doing everything myself, whether it's a talk that needs preparing or student papers need grading or I feel a blog post coming on. I'm not used to relying on others, and of course my priorities are not necessarily their priorities.
  • Room with a Brew. I've also been recruiting restaurant/bars to this event sponsored by the Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District. The organization promotes residential and business development with an eye to historic preservation; the event, which occurred for the first time last year, is a self-guided tour of the district's urban life, including apartments and condos ("room") and local eating establishments ("brew"). Getting people to agree to be part of this has not been difficult, but getting and keeping their attention has been. Apparently doing things requires a lot of work.
I close this bit of self-indulgence with a great round of thanks to you who read this, whether you're new to the blog or a long-time follower. These have been, according to Blogger, the five most viewed posts of the first 4.25 years:

  1. A Silent But Needful Protest, 1 November 2016 [Coe College responds to the defacing of Multicultural Fusion posters]
  2. Snout Houses? In Oakhill-Jackson??, 16 October 2016 [Suburban style development in a historic Cedar Rapids neighborhood]
  3. Let's Hear It for Cedar Rapids, 5 September 2016 [The Mayors Bike Ride and everything else going on Labor Day weekend]
  4. Crime and Our Common Life, 1 August 2016 [The mysterious rise and fall and possibly now rise of violent crime rates in America]
  5. Linn County's First Bicycle Boulevard, 29 August 2016 [3rd Street is really just a sharrow]
The five least viewed are all from 2013 and 2014, which I take as a hopeful sign:

  1. Halloween 2013, 1 November 2013 [Halloween as civic holiday... Strong Towns' Rachel Quednau had a good article on the same topic last fall]
  2. Nothing Says Community Like..., 13 January 2014 [Take your Christmas tree to this parking lot and it will be made into trails]
  3. A Holiday Tradition, 24 November 2013 [Christmas at Brucemore National Historic Site]
  4. Downtown Construction Continues, 23 September 2014 [early stages of the CRST building, might have the fewest words of any posts on this blog]
  5. (tie) Fourth of July in Cedar Rapids, 5 July 2013 & A Quick Thought About Michael Sam, 11 February 2014 [the many facets of a civic holiday, a defensive lineman comes out]

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

What's up, Cleveland?

Cleveland, Ohio, has had as tough a time as any American city making the transition from the industrial to the post-industrial era. During the decade 2005-2015, when many observers saw a return to urban centers by both residents and businesses, Cleveland's population actually dropped by 14.2 percent, more than any large city except for Detroit and New Orleans. On key indicators of community well-being, Cleveland's percentage of adults with a bachelor's degree or higher (15.8), median household income ($26150), and percentage of adults in the labor force (58.2) score well below the U.S. as a whole, and below even comparable cities like Chicago, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. This has occurred despite the presence of "eds and meds" led by the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, the city's largest employer.

The City of Cleveland has maintained a lot of the downtown architecture from its heyday, while trying to open up access to Lake Erie. The Terminal Tower was built in 1930 as transportation hub and commercial space, overlooking Public Square:

Inside views:

Public Square is a pedestrian plaza, managed by the mayorally-appointed Group Plan Commission. Beginning in 2011 and dedicated in 2016, the remade Public Square was the first project for the commission, though the new young trees provided little protection from the Sun on the hot day we visited:

Public Square in 1920. Source: Wikipedia
Public Square also contains the 1894 Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, which we were surprised to find was open to the public. Our guide says "90% of Clevelanders know this is here, and 10% know it's open to the public." The interior lists all county residents who served in the Civil War, as well as stained glass windows and sculptures with varying degrees of fancifulness.

Across Public Square from the Tower Center is the Old Stone (First Presbyterian) Church, built in 1855 though Presbyterians have been worshiping on this corner since 1819:

The view down Ontario Street towards the courthouse:

On the other end of the visual delight spectrum, the view down Prospect Avenue towards the Tower Center. Casinos are not civic buildings:

Along Rockwell Avenue, a sign of difficult walking. If the design cues are saying "Cross here," a lot of good a sign is going to do.

The Cleveland Public Library is two blocks from Public Square down Superior Street. Its new Louis Stokes Wing sits nicely next to the original facility, and has some quiet spaces inside...

...while the Eastman Reading Garden between them made for a shady parklet, popular on this sunny summer day.

The commercial areas around the city center feature a lot of massive buildings, historic but not enough variety to be inviting. An exception was East 4th Street, a narrow street closed to traffic and featuring a number of popular gathering places:

The Arcade, a proto-mall dating from 1890, by contrast was rather quiet even on a hot day. Its architecture is impressive...

...but shops like this might have been busier with street access.

North of downtown is Lake Erie. There's enough car traffic to make walking tricky; the Group Plan Commission plans a pedestrian bridge which may help. Attractions (besides the lake) include the home field for the NFL's Cleveland Browns (at left)...

...the Great Lakes Science Science Center...

...and the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.

We went east via rapid transit to visit the Cleveland Museum of Art. There's some transit-oriented development happening by the new Little Italy stop....

...bringing new people to a charming, walkable neighborhood.

The Cozad-Bates House, build in 1853

Even "star" cities struggle with issues of concentrated poverty, gentrification, infrastructure and so on. Cleveland's struggle to catch up to the post-industrial world exacerbating all those other struggles. A whirlwind tour of the city shows it has good bones in many places, civic attractions that are well-supported, a powerful if mixed heritage, and efforts towards promoting walkability. In theory all a city can do is lay the groundwork for prosperity and then the private sector takes over. What does it do when step one doesn't seem to be working?

(Or maybe it is starting to work? This article in Cleveland Magazine documents a dramatic change in attitude among Cleveland residents towards their home city. Those interviewed for the article seem to put unwarranted faith in attitude and branding as keys to success, but do I have a better answer?)

"Can Cities Change Their Luck," 20 June 2016
"Two Tales of Cities," 7 June 2016
All things Cleveland at
Sheehan Hannan, "Who Are We Now," Cleveland Magazine, 1 July 2017

Do bicycle boulevards need a purpose?

I was surprised last weekend to find the place where we were staying was on a bicycle boulevard. A bicycle boulevard is "a street ...