Much like the strategy of 17 target zones put forth by New Orleans recovery chief Ed Blakely, the Cleveland plan is built on the premise that investment in and around stable areas will snowball. Ohio City, now counted as a success, is no longer a target area, but two other neighborhoods on its fringes are.
Too bad more people in Cleveland don't see what New Orleans sees. Instead, they obsess the sibling rivalry with Pittsburgh. The fate of Pittsburgh and Cleveland are increasingly intertwined. This is not a time for overblown civic pride. Of course, there is nothing wrong with celebrating the success of Ohio City.
New Orleans is also turning to Youngstown for a template of redevelopment:
If Youngstown's acceptance of its decline is unusual, it was also a long time in the making. The city's collapse began in 1977, and for a couple of decades, men would still gather in taverns and talk of the day the mills would reopen.
In the words of Hunter Morrison, an urban planning professor at Youngstown State University who helped shape the blueprint, Youngstown's new plan reflects a consensus that it was time to "turn granny's picture to the wall" and rethink the city radically.
Ironically, the Rust Belt is full of cities radically rethinking themselves. The Urbanophile thinks that Detroit should take the same plunge. Again, Youngstown is the exemplar of urban triage:
Other cities, Youngstown among them, decided against an all-or-nothing approach in decommissioning failed neighborhoods. Even in ramshackle Oak Hill, not every block had failed. The goal: Bolster what can be saved, but try to pull back from what cannot.
In other words, if one block has five occupied houses on it, the city might be able to justify plowing the street in winter and repairing it in summer. Not so for the block with a lone family remaining.
Although the Unified New Orleans Plan called for "clustering" residents in neighborhoods with a better chance for rebuilding, city leaders did little to entice residents to avoid hard-hit neighborhoods. But some of those who pushed hardest for a complete rebuilding of the city now say they think buyouts should be made available to those who regret their decision to rebuild.
Cleveland is the least forward looking part of Cleveburgh. The entire Rust Belt suffers from omphaloskepsis, meditating on the days that used to be. New Orleans is beginning to grapple with the burial of its past. Cleveland could easily fall behind, losing sight of its own transformation already taking place. Cleveland could learn a few things from New Orleans.