This is what McPaper (USA Today) had to say about Youngstown in a recent article. There is a very good article on the shrinking cities such as St. Louis and Richmond here.
Youngstown, Ohio, is an exception. It has fully embraced its shrinkage. The population, now about 83,000, is less than half what it was when the steel industry collapsed in the 1970s.
"You look at the facts and come up with solutions," chief planner Anthony Kobak says. "The first step the city has come to terms with is being a small city."
Youngstown approved a 2010 plan. The goal: "A safe, clean, enjoyable, sustainable, attractive city," Kobak says.
The city long was better known for gritty steel mills than green space. Now that the mills are gone, there is plenty of space. With the help of a grant, Youngstown preserved 260 acres. It's targeting neighborhoods and redesigning them with the help of residents who stayed.
The city may let homeowners buy abandoned lots next door to create gardens. It's considering relaxing zoning rules to allow small horse farms or apple orchards. It's offering incentives for people to move out of abandoned areas.
"If you had three or four square blocks that at one time had 40 homes per block and now have maybe five homes total, we could relocate those people across the street and convert the vacant area into a large city park," Kobak says.Residents would live be living across from a park rather than being surrounded by decrepit homes and lots overgrown with weeds.
"If we're looking to preserve an area for green space, we may offer that person relocation money rather than rehab money," Kobak says.