Green Infrastructure and Sustainability in Shrinking Cities

Authors: Melissa Keeley*, George Washington University
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Urban Geography, Environment
Keywords: green infrastructure, urban planning, shrinking cities, sustainability, stormwater management
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Council Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Most of planning practice is devoted to efforts that guide population and economic growth. However, there exist cities worldwide that have experienced significant population and economic decline following deindustrialization, economic and political flux, and catastrophes. The effects of decline are broad and cut across environmental, economic and social concerns; for instance, “shrinking” cities often struggle to meet the needs of their remaining residents with a vastly diminished tax base and aging infrastructures designed for a larger population. I explore ways in which green infrastructure is being used in the stabilization and sustainability efforts of “shrinking” cities in the US, Germany and Australia. A survey of these efforts demonstrates the variety that exists, including projects undertaken to provide stormwater management, food security, vacant land stabilization, and green job opportunities. As cities move forward with these efforts, I identify broader considerations common to these applications including brownfields and contamination, complexities surrounding land ownership, and the importance of considering desired size, location, density, and land uses in the short and long term. I conclude that green infrastructure approaches for sustainability in shrinking cities require holistic and integrated planning involving multiple city agencies. The crisis faced by many shrinking cities provides opportunities to rethink urban landscapes, yet governments must also carefully consider long-term implications of chosen strategies.

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