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Other shrinking cities: Smaller is more beautiful

THE five kinds of heirloom tomatoes on Joanna Lehrman’s and Roxanne Adair’s farm look delicious. Their tiny two-acre (0.8 hectare) farm also has a buzzing beehive and a hoop house, which protects produce in the winter. It is just a short walk from downtown Flint, a gritty struggling Michigan city. Until about a year ago the land was 16 abandoned residential lots along Beach Street, filled with rubbish, broken pieces of concrete and burnt trees. According to Doug Weiland, who runs the Genesee County Land Bank, a third of all Flint’s parcels are abandoned. Even seemingly stable neighbourhoods have boarded up houses.Flint is one of many cities in America’s rustbelt, like Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Youngstown and Rochester, which have seen dramatic drops in population over the past half century or so. When manufacturing left these cities, so did their residents. In 1968, General Motors, which was founded in Flint, employed 80,000 employees there. Today, there are only 6,000. The city’s population has halved since 1960, falling from 197,000 to just over 100,000; proportionately, it has suffered nearly as badly as Michigan’s largest city, Detroit. Many unable to sell were forced to abandon their houses. Others lost their homes to foreclosure. The rustbelt cities of the Midwest and north-east have been in decline for decades, but it has taken decades for many of them…

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