Big City Projects Fight 'Urban Blight'

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Financial problems in many cities across the nation are taking a toll on basic infrastructure and property values.

Because they cannot rely on their governments, many communities are coming up with creative ways to combat "urban blight."

All over America, old buildings are falling apart, often because of neglect or lack of economic support. Abandoned buildings are a magnet for crime, and that causes property values to plummet.

A recent study found that in the last decade, there was a dramatic increase in the number of vacant houses and apartments across the nation. Cities like Baltimore, Cleveland, and Detroit saw significant population declines.

"Some of these cities waited for somebody to come and solve their problems for them. That day is no longer with us," Uwe Brandes, executive director of the Masters Program in Urban and regional Planning at Georgetown University, said.

Since 2010, eight cities and towns have filed for bankruptcy. The economic crisis has led residents to join forces to find creative ways to rescue and rebuild their communities.

"My friend and I had this idea, well, why don't we just grow food in the city. Seems like a really easy plan right?" Cheryl Carmona, in Baltimore, Md., said.

From that idea grew Boone Street Farm, an urban garden in a rundown East Baltimore neighborhood.

Carmona and her friend were initially met with skepticism, but with time, the garden has brought a sense of community pride and engagement.

"I've definitely had a lot more positive responses from people, just walking by and saying, like, thank you," Carmona said.

Similar urban gardens are popping up around the nation, but that's not the only way cities are re-building.

Some places are starting with a clean slate. Detroit recently received $52 million to combat blight, and a big part is going to tearing down abandoned buildings.

That's just the first step.

"This takes long-term commitment of capital, or knowledge, and certainly of community will," Brandes said.

Other cities are resorting to art projects involving children and youth, fostering a sense of ownership, pride, and love for their cities.

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