Unfinished subdivisions like this one in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert, Ariz., have led urban planners to suggest “smart decline” strategies that sometimes even dismantle existing infrastructure.
On the western edge of Phoenix, it’s easy to find vast tracts of empty land once prepped for two-by-fours and work crews. Utility stanchions emerge like errant whiskers from the desert floor.
This is the land of zombie subdivisions. Some experts believe up to 1 million dirt lots in central Arizona were in some stage of approval for new homes when the market crashed.
Urban planners are floating a radical solution for areas like this. It’s known as “smart decline.”
Justin Hollander, an assistant professor at Tufts University, wrote a book called Sunburnt Cities,about smart decline in the Southwest. After the bust, he says, more than a third of ZIP codes in major Sun Belt cities saw population losses.
“People are leaving,” Hollander says. “So that means all the houses, all the roads and infrastructure that supports those houses, it doesn’t just disappear.”
In some cases, Hollander calls for tearing down that infrastructure. He points to some Rust Belt cities that took generations to realize the depth of their problems.
“If you don’t do a good job, it further destabilizes the neighborhood,” he says. “It further creates a cycle of disinvestment.”
Read More/Listen http://www.npr.org/2011/12/28/144333793/smart-decline-a-lifeline-for-zombie-subdivisions