1st Edition

Sunburnt Cities The Great Recession, Depopulation and Urban Planning in the American Sunbelt

By Justin Hollander Copyright 2011
    192 Pages
    by Routledge

    192 Pages
    by Routledge

    In recent years there has been a growing focus on urban and environmental studies, and the skills and techniques needed to address the wider challenges of how to create sustainable communities. Central to that demand is the increasing urgency of addressing the issue of urban decline, and the response has almost always been to pursue growth policies to attempt to reverse that decline. The track record of growth policies has been mixed at best.

    Until the first decade of the twenty-first century decline was assumed to be an issue only for former industrial cities – the so-called Rust Belt. But the sudden reversal in growth in the major cities of the American Sunbelt has shown that urban decline can be a much wider issue. Justin Hollander’s research into urban decline in both the Sun and Rust Belts draws lessons planners and policy makers that can be applied universally.

    Hollander addresses the reasons and statistics behind these "shrinking cities" with a positive outlook, arguing that growth for growth’s sake is not beneficial for communities, suggesting instead that urban development could be achieved through shrinkage. Case studies on Phoenix, Flint, Orlando and Fresno support the argument, and Hollander delves into the numbers, literature and individual lives affected and how they have changed in response to the declining regions.

    Written for urban scholars and to suit a wide range of courses focused on contemporary urban studies, this text forms a base for all study on shrinking cities for professionals, academics and students in urban design, planning, public administration and sociology.

    1. Introduction  2. Perspectives on Growth and Decline  3. When People Leave – The Ruins of Urban Neighborhoods  4. Lessons From a Declining City: Flint, Michigan after 40 Years of Population Loss  5. A New Model for Neighborhood Change in Shrinking Cities  6. Unfamiliar Patterns in the Sun – What Postal Workers Already Know  7. Facing Change in the Central Valley: A Declining Fresno  8. Endless Growth in the Desert? The Fall of Phoenix  9. Abandonment Outside the Magic Kingdom: What Went Wrong in Orlando  10. Conclusion


    Justin B. Hollander is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University and a Research Scientist at the George Perkins Marsh Institute at Clark University.

    "Sunburnt Cities is an excellent book for urban planning students, faculty, and practitioners interested in shrinking cities of all kinds. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels." - B. Hanlon, Ohio State University, CHOICE

    "[Justin Hollander] favors an idea called "smart decline" or "smart shrinkage" which boils down to a version of the old lemons/lemonade wisdom: If your city stops growing, can you do something positive with that? Can you manage shrinkage the way you once hoped to manage growth?" – Scott Dickensheets, Las Vegas Sun, USA

    "[Hollander] at Tufts is a rising star in planning research" – Lisa Schweitzer, Associate Professor of  Urban Planning, University of Southern California, USA

    "This is a useful analysis that will be a welcomed addition to the urban planning literature" – Prof Emily Talen, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University, USA

    "Hollander takes on the dominant paradigm of cities attempting to grow out of decline and challenges the common assertion that Sunbelt cities will quickly bounce back from the foreclosure crisis. He combines solid scholarship with engaging narrative to make Sunburnt Cities a must read for planners, policymakers, scholars and anyone interested in the future of these boom-and-bust places." – Dan Immergluck, Associate Professor, School of City and Regional Planning, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA

    "Sunburnt Cities is a call to action for planners and policymakers to change course from "growth at all costs" to a development model that is green and economically sustainable.  Hollander once again establishes intriguing connections that few have made as he eloquently describes how communities in the Sun and Rust Belt can learn from each other in addressing declining populations and increasing property vacancy.  A must read for practitioners, policymakers, and researchers throughout all regions."– J.M. Schilling, Associate Director, Metropolitan Institute, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, USA

    "…you will be captivated by [Hollander’s] vivid descriptions of life in America’s depopulated neighborhoods." – Urban Land Institute

    "...I have learned a great deal from this book, in particular from the descriptions of the four case-study cities. Furthermore, Hollander has written a very readable book with little jargon and not a word too much."  – Housing Studies

    "A well-written analysis that makes technical material accessible and entertaining to read" – Journal of Planning Education and Research


    "The editors and authors tell us that architecture and urban design must give people what they want, what they are comfortable with and what evolution has primed them to seek and appreciate. That message is likely to be received with some ambivalence in most schools of environmental design and in many professional associations [...] the editors and their collaborators rightly tell us that designers and planners stand to benefit from new biometric methods. A better understanding of the human mind, visual perception and user behaviour can only help. In the hands of a skilful designer, it can add to the complexity and contradiction that makes good architecture great."- Journal of Urban Affairs