This article was originally published on Common Edge.
Of the four types of recovery facing American cities and towns—disaster, sprawl, disinvestment, and the recovery of community for those fleeing climate change—the recovery of places from serious disinvestment arguably gets the least amount of press today. But with reasonable effort, it’s the recovery type most likely to bear fruit. This is true for several reasons, beginning with the likelihood that many of the bones of sustainable placemaking are still in place. Newly built places, even if skillfully designed, often face the criticism of “lack of authenticity,” whereas places recovering from disinvestment abound with authentic scars from decades of distress. And places with humble origins were usually built in smaller increments than once-wealthy places, so the tighter rhythms of such places are inherently more interesting than those of grander scale early in recovery.