Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New Rust Belt Visions

When I write that Youngstown is at the front of a new economic paradigm, I'd bet most people think that I'm guilty of hyperbole. But after reading about ambitious self-starters re-inhabiting the homes of the economic titans of the city's past, I tend to think that I'm understating the transformation. Also, the creative vanguard is seeing the same thing I am:

“All of the projects draw upon the phenomenon of decay as a process of change affecting our built components,” Maher said. “We are each interested in transcending the negative … associations of decay, and in revealing neglect, abandonment and blight to be catalysts for extraordinary forms of regeneration.” ...

... “Most of the world’s older cities have been built again and again, layer upon super-imposed layer and our understanding of those places is based upon our glimpses in between the layers. But here in Buffalo, things are actually de-layering,” Maher said. “Rust belt cities are particularly interesting to me because we don’t really know where they are headed and because the vacuous nature of such places creates tremendous opportunities to invent new ways of living.”

To date, this is the best interpretation of urban frontier I've encountered. The suburbs used to be the place where this kind of innovation occurred. As California slides into the abyss, the sprawl paradigm is coming along for the ride. Tomorrow's greenfields (i.e. "vacuous nature") can be found in Youngstown, today.

Nowhere else are the barriers of entry so low. The best ideas truly have a chance to flower. You needn't be well-connected or sport an impressive résumé. Come to Dream City and live in the mansions that industrial riches built.

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