The future is local: Braddock, Pennsylvania

Paul Raven @ 17-07-2009

"We will grow" - the bridge to BraddockWe’ve been talking a fair bit about urban decline and decay, and efforts to repurpose collapsing cities.

Now, here’s an example of a dying town trying to go its own way – Braddock, Pennsylvania was once a flourishing steel town, home to Andrew Carnegie’s first free library. Now it has a population of under 2,500, and the axe of a proposed freeway hangs heavily over its neck. 2005 saw John Fetterman become Mayor, and he’s now working to bring “the kind of outside energy, ideas, and interest from the artistic, urbanist, and creative communities” to the town. [hat-tip to Justin Pickard; image by Hryck.]

In other words, if you’ve been reading along with Cory Doctorow’s serialised novel Makers over at Tor.com, or following Chairman Bruce‘s ongoing obsession with “stuffed animal” architecture and squatter culture, Fetterman’s plans will look pretty familiar. Whether Braddock can reinvent itself as a counter-cultural artist’s enclave remains to be seen, but you’ve got to salute the determination of a man willing to work at making it happen. When your government can’t (or won’t) help you, you’ve got to help yourself.

A loosely related story from Canada sees five Ontario grocery stores abandoning their franchisee status in favour of becoming a cooperative organisation that focusses on stocking the local produce that corporate policy previously prevented them from selling. Are we seeing the first trickles of a global landslide toward massive decentralisation, and a return to economies driven by community and proximity? [via MetaFilter]