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Simultaneous conferences share same goal: Rust Belt city revival

Formally Urban.jpg
Ryan Morden
Posters like these are posted throughout Syracuse, advertising a conference to help find solutions to revitalize Rust Belt cities. A similar conference is taking place in Cleveland, Ohio on the very same days.

Dueling conferences are taking place this week -- one in Cleveland, the other in Syracuse. Both deal with ways Rust Belt cities can revitalize themselves. Though the goal is the same, the approaches are different.  

The Cleveland conference, titled “Reclaiming Vacant Properties,” is the third national conference that focuses on what cities can do with vacant properties. Jennifer Leonard, with the conference, says a Rust Belt city isn’t going to solve the problem by itself.

“One of the things we learned over the last five, six, seven years... working on this issue together, is that there are people across the country that have been dealing with the same challenges as you in Syracuse or someone in Baltimore, or someone in Cleveland, or Louisville,” said Leonard.

Coming together has helped spread innovative solutions. Though not new, the concept of “land banking” has gained popularity over the years, especially with the recent foreclosure crisis.  Leonard says:

“I think more and more as cities that haven’t been challenged with vacant properties before suddenly realize they have this very large inventory of properties that may not be turned around right away, there needs to be some sort of responsible ownership and responsible maintenance and someone paying attention to what’s happening to them."

There’s a bevy of seminars at the Ohio conference. Leonard says they didn’t get all the speakers they wanted, because another conference in Syracuse, titled "Formally Urban," is happening at the same time.

Leonard says she hasn’t flipped through the entire Syracuse agenda, but says it appears to focus more on design rather than policy.

According to Julia Czerniak, with Formally Urban, design is a big part of the Syracuse conference because it was born out of the Syracuse University architecture school.

“Design matters in the remaking of these communities and these environments,” said Czerniak.

She says the conference is will feature people who work in design, real estate, finance, architecture, and public policy.

Czerniak says it’s unfortunate that both conferences are taking place at the same time. Stakeholders interested in Rust Belt city revival will have to choose one or the other.

“Reclaiming Vacant Properties,” is taking place in Cleveland, Ohio the 13th through the 15th this week. “Formally Urban” is taking place the 13th and the 14th at Syracuse University. To comment on this story, visit our Facebook page.

Innovation Trail alumnus Ryan Morden is originally from Seattle. He graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor's in journalism, minoring in political science and Scandinavian studies. Morden was Morning Edition producer and reporter at WRVO before moving over to the Innovation Trail project. Before landing at WRVO, Morden covered the Washington State legislature as a correspondent for Northwest News Network (N3), a group of nine NPR affiliates in the northwest.
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