I promised to write about shrinking cities, after my extended trip to Washington DC last month. Here's my recent article for Regen & Renewal - which explains how shrinking cities like Cleveland and Detroit are considering "right-sizing". It's a controversial topic, as it involves selective demolition and greening over vacant land - rather than building shiny new buildings and hoping businesses will come. But it looks like the only sensible option for cities that have lost half their population over the last 50 years.
We have our own shrinking cities. Liverpool's population fell from 768k in 1951 to 439k in 2001, and Manchester shrank at the same rate. But there are big differences between the UK and US - labour mobility is much higher in the US, and the scale of abandonment much worse. Town centre planning, brownfield rules and local taxation are also very different.
But we can still learn from the US "right-sizing" debate. For example, not every UK city will grow at or above the national average. Struggling cities like Stoke and Hull need to be realistic about that, and avoid copycat growth strategies. Our research programme this year will set out some new ideas on how different types of city here can develop over the next decade. The first in a series of Agenda for Growth reports will be out in June.
Meanwhile, urban guru Richard Florida has now latched on to the whole shrinking cities story. He's been tweeting like mad recently, on how to revitalise shrinking Rustbelt Cities like Detroit. His new book The Great Reset - published in April - includes a chapter on The Death and Life of Great Industrial Cities.
Florida argues that "older industrial cities need not grow to improve" - instead, they should "manage the process of economic transformation and adjustment...and align with the new economic and fiscal realities".
Here's his big question: Should public policy towards hard-pressed, economically strapped cities focus on people, not just by encouraging retraining but also by helping them relocate to places with a better job market? Or should policies focus on places, by fostering geographically targeted reinvestment?
His answer: in most cases it makes sense to put people first. But he doesn't give up on old industrial cities - instead, he calls for smaller, less glamorous projects to support local business formation - oh, and high-speed rail to connect these places to more thriving economic hubs.