The decay (and even disappearance) of cities is nothing new. The once thriving ancient centres like Petra (in modern Jordan), Tenochtitlan (Mexico), Harappa (Pakistan) and Mycenae in Greece are classic examples.
Nor is the reinvention of cities a recent concept. For example, the Spanish established Guanajuato in 1548 on gold and silver mines, but by the 18th century its transformation into a university town had begun. The last mine closed in the 1920s and today there are 30,000 students in this small colonial town.
What’s remarkable, however, is the sheer number of cities and towns around the world that are withering. They’re dying as foundation industries close or shrink (Detroit’s automotive industry and Pittsburgh’s steel mills are examples).
Country towns are withering due to the urbanisation of populations. In 1910, 40% of Australians lived in the major cities. A hundred years later, 70% of Australians live in cities. The same urban migration is taking place in other countries around the globe.
Walk through many regional towns and cities and you will be confronted by empty buildings. In Michigan, nearly 15% of homes and buildings in the state were vacant in 2010. Many owners are simply waiting for the state’s fortunes to pick up before spending money on renovations.
And this is the problem: people are waiting – and praying – for something to happen. They’re hoping for a miraculous resurrection. At least this is what’s happening in many towns.
In some, however, people aren’t prepared to leave their city’s resurrection to chance. They are actively working at reinventing their cities. And one of those cities is Pittsburgh.
The story of Pittsburgh’s reinvention as a technology hub is a great lesson for councils and governments worried about their own declining townships.
There are many formal studies about how Pittsburgh is going about this transformation. For a general introduction, there are 5 stories on the Changing Gears website, a site devoted to “Remaking the Manufacturing Belt”.
Read them here