Monday, February 2, 2009

Rust Never Sleeps

Braddock, Pennsylvania, just a few miles from Pittsburgh is bankrupt, distressed, and falling apart. But unlike other Rust Belt towns that try to put a good face on their decay or merely try hide it away, this one is embracing it. The mayor of Braddock, thirty-nine-year-old John Fetterman, is hoping the town can capitalize on its neglect by attracting pioneering creative types looking for cheap space. The town's website, which the mayor paid for, asks visitors,
Can a town that lost nearly 90% of its population, homes, and businesses come back? Could Braddock's remaining assets be leveraged by new ideas, energy, individuals to spark a cultural and economic revitalization?
The town has turned into a sort of laboratory of decay and renewal. People are willing to experiment in a place where things can't get much worse. Cheap real estate made it possible for residents to build a community farm the size of a football field right in the middle of town, which employs area youth. A bio-fuel company has set up shop. And creative types are starting to trickle in.

The mayor holds no illusions that his plan will work quickly, or even work at all. But the experiment he has set in motion is well worth paying attention to. Whatever lessons come out of it could have direct application to other decaying towns left behind by heavy industry, of which we are bound to see more of in coming years.

Read more about Braddock here, and see the town's website here.

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