rustbelt road trip 2009


5 Days, 5 Cities, 5 students, 

20 Organizations, 1 Mega-Region

The challenges that face the Rust Belt city are large in scale and scope:

economic stagnation,

brownfield redevelopment,

high unemployment,the group!

environmental justice,

shrinking populations,

racial legacies, the list goes on and on.

What does the Rust Belt hold for both students and practitioners in urban planning? A lot.

For one thing, much of planning focuses on the concept and associated issues of growth (Growth Management, Smart Growth, Economic Development and Growth, etc).

What happens when cities don’t grow when they shrink?

Without studying cities in decline, how can planners effectively work in cities of decline?

Rust Belt cities combat stew of these complex and interrelated issues on the ground.

The current economic situation and changing political context has catalyzed dialogue about the future of our cities. What can we learn from what these cities have already gone through? What can their experience tell us about the wisdom of the pursuit of growth? Of balancing social, economic, and environmental goals in difficult times?
This investigation will provide students an on-the-ground way to encounter the interrelated issues of declining cities:

housing (vacancy, supply/demand of affordable housing),

economic development (attracting employers/employees to older towns, brownfields)

community development in the context of a Rust Belt city.

In the end, the students and practitioners following this project will understand the work facing communities of the Rust Belt and the broader implications for communities across the nation.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The Rustbelt Road Trip was sponsored by the  Community Informatics Initiative at UIUC and the UIUC Chapter of Planners Network.

The Community Informatics Initiative works with people to develop information and communication technologies to achieve their goals. It fosters collaborations across campus, local, national and international communities. Together we build innovative community networks, community technology centers, software, and library services.

Planners Network is an association of professionals, activists, academics, and students involved in physical, social, economic, and environmental planning in urban and rural areas, who promote fundamental change in our political and economic systems.

Who We Are:

Masters in Urban Planning Students from the University of Illinois

Where We Went:

Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Cleveland, Detroit, Flint


Who We Met:




Government Agencies,

Neighborhood groups

What We Saw:

Flickr Site



  1. […] I just found this blog written by urban planning students, practitioners and organizations: Rust Belt Roadtrip 2009.  I would also like to do such a roadtrip, stopping to talk to sustainability practitioners of all […]

    Pingback by Rust Belt Roadtrip « Renovating the Rust Belt — 08/27/2009 @ 2:11 pm | Reply

  2. […] About […]

    Pingback by Rustbelt Road Trip! « rust belt road trip 2009 — 08/30/2009 @ 11:59 am | Reply

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