Confronting decline, sparking renewal


2020 Green City


Green City

A commercial farm overlooking downtown Cleveland? A vineyard in inner-city Hough? Clevelanders are finding creative uses for vacant land that spark economic activity and also help the city prepare for climate change.

2020 Blue Lake


Blue Lake

An offshore wind energy project on Lake Erie will generate clean power and reinvent Cleveland’s industrial legacy for a new era.

It’s about wealth creation and it’s about changing the trope, changing people’s opinion of Hough.

2020 Lakefront City


Lakefront City

Suburban Euclid once suffered from proximity to urban decline in neighboring Cleveland, but now it’s following the city’s example, thinking outside the box to revitalize and reinvent itself as a lakefront community.

2006 Euclid



Once people abandon a city, the inner suburbs are usually next. Formerly a destination for upwardly mobile families, Euclid scrambles to find a new identity.


The Future of America’s Middle Neighborhoods

Alan Mallach

In the 19th and 20th centuries, middle neighborhoods sprang up to house middle-income families drawn to U.S. cities by the dramatic rise of industry.

Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities

Alan Mallach and Lavea Brachman

This report explores the challenges of regenerating America's legacy cities and suggests ways to overcome obstacles such as job and population loss.

The Empty House Next Door

Alan Mallach

Renowned city planner and housing advocate Alan Mallach presents effective strategies for community leaders, local officials, and nonprofits contending with vacant properties in the United States.

Great Lakes Communities Use Scenario Planning to Prepare for Rising Waters

Emma Zehner

The national dialogue about rising waters tends to focus on coastal states like Florida and New York. But residents in Michigan, which has one of the longest coastlines in the continental U.S., are also contending with changes.

I feel like we are a lost community, and there’s a lot of potential around here, but we don’t have anything to strive with.

In Cleveland’s most isolated area, people can commute downtown on public transit, but they struggle to reach distant suburbs such as Avon, where many employers are now located.  Planning for job access is essential to helping these residents escape poverty and spatial inequality.

Forgotten Triangle

2006 Avon



Building amid decayed urban infrastructure and brownfields is expensive, while tax-financed highways make it cheaper to build in suburbs.

2006 Downtown in the City


Downtown in the City

Betting on new interest in urban living among young people and empty nesters, Cleveland risks big investments to help revitalize its downtown neighborhoods. 

2006 Downtown in the Suburbs


Downtown in the Suburbs

The success of a mixed-use development deep in the suburbs demonstrates a desire for the vitality and amenities of urban life—even among those unwilling to live downtown.

We’ve got something they don’t have: we’ve got a city!

Urban Living

Tracking the growth of “downtowns” in both a city and a suburb, data reveals a sign of their continued popularity: a disproportional uptick in residential units.

Downtown Cleveland Population
bar graph of population growth in downtown cleveland
pie chart shows 93 percent


Downtown Housing Occupancy in 2018

pie chart shows one fifth

1 in 5

Downtown Residents Works in Healthcare


Made for Walking

Julie Campoli

Julie Campoli, author of Made for Walking: Density and Neighborhood Form, shows how Davis Square in Somerville, Massachusetts, has all the essential ingredients of a well-designed, walkable neighborhood.

Planning for Social Equity: How Baltimore and Dallas Are Connecting Segregated Neighborhoods to Opportunity

Kathleen McCormick

Over the past 40 years, economic inequality in the United States has returned to levels last seen in the 1920s. This gap has become more pronounced in many cities where wealth and poverty are concentrated geographically.

In a once-thriving part of Cleveland, residents join forces with city planners, nonprofits, and banks to take control of blighted properties and turn around their neighborhood.


Land Banks

Land banks provide a mechanism for acquiring vacant land and returning it to productive use. Largely pioneered by Cleveland after initial success in St. Louis, Missouri, land banks are now helping many American cities deal with blight in the wake of the foreclosure crisis.

pie chart of 75 percent


Vacant and Abandoned Properties Eliminated in Cleveland since 2006



Side Yards Created



Affordable Single Family Homes Created

apartment building


Affordable Units in Multifamily Buildings

The health of a city’s public schools is a bellwether for quality of life; when voters no longer prioritize education over short-term concerns, future generations will experience long-term consequences.

School Crisis

Saving the Schools

Public schools in Cleveland’s inner neighborhoods continue to struggle, but residents are recognizing that strong schools are key to the city’s future.

pie chart showing 55 percent


of Cleveland schools were on academic watch or emergency in 2012

pie chart showing 33 percent


of Cleveland neighborhoods only had access to failing schools in 2012

Cleveland Public Schools Graduation Rate
line graph of graduation rates in cleveland public schools

This neighborhood has embraced people that the world has thrown away, who are going to be the ones who bring vitality back to Cleveland.

2020 Dream Neighborhood


Dream Neighborhood

Immigrant families have historically been a source of vitality in inner neighborhoods, but today fewer choose to come to Cleveland. One possible solution? Welcome refugees.

2006 Hough



Cleveland tries to halt decline by attracting middle-class families back to its inner neighborhoods, to increase the tax base and spark economic activity.


Great Adaptations: How Two Smaller Legacy Cities Are Adopting Green Infrastructure

Cyrus Moulton

As smaller legacy cities continue the grueling work of rebounding from the severe economic and population losses suffered since their manufacturing heydays, the green approach is gaining traction.

Putting People First: 10 Steps Toward Pedestrian-Friendly Suburbs

Lynn Richards

Reoriented for pedestrians, suburban neighborhoods can thrive and diversify to better support local economies, raise quality of life indicators, and improve local and regional environmental conditions.

The Unmalling of America: How Municipalities Are Navigating the Changing Retail Landscape

Gregory Scruggs

The struggling Bangor Mall is a national parable of changing retail habits.

Imagery in the above videos are courtesy of the following:

Blue Lake: The Library of Congress; The National Archives; Pond 5; Scientific American; Smithsonian Institution Archives, Image # SIA2008-0307; Western Reserve Historical Society.

Dream Neighborhood: Cleveland Metro School District; Pond5; Shane Wynn; Shutterstock; Threeblur0; Western Reserve Historical Society.

Forgotten Triangle: Brookings Institution; Carmen Angelo/WTAM-iHeartMedia; Case Western Reserve University; Cleveland Metro School District; Cleveland Plain Dealer; Ed McDonald/Taco Slayer Aerial Urban Exploration & Community Activism; Ohio Department of Transportation; Pond5.

Green City: FreshWater. 

Lakefront City: Google Maps; The National Archives; Smithgroup JJR. 

Click here to watch the entire 2006 film Cleveland: Confronting Decline in an American City, a documentary film produced by Northern Light Productions and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.