Volume 11, Issue 1 | August 24, 2016

Policy makers in America have long understood that the quality of life in neighborhoods—or the absence of it—matters a great deal in shaping the lives of children and adults living in city and suburban neighborhoods. This understanding translated into clearing slums in the 1950s and 1960s, to improving distressed neighborhoods via community development corporations later in the 20th Century, to seeking communities of opportunity in today’s policy environment.

This volume is about a type of American neighborhood that has been largely absent in the long-standing discussion about America’s neighborhoods—those neighborhoods in America’s cities and suburbs that are not in deep distress, but are not thriving either. Rather, these are neighborhoods that are between deep distress and a healthy, stable condition—neighborhoods we have labeled “middle neighborhoods.”

This volume aims at stimulating a national dialogue about middle neighborhoods. The volume is divided into four sections. In the first section, authors trace earlier efforts to stabilize these neighborhoods, describe the demographics and characteristics of this category of neighborhoods in select cities, and make the case for why middle neighborhoods matter in America’s cities and suburbs.

The second section describes the challenges that face middle neighborhoods and the importance of homeownership in them. The third section describes initiatives that are currently underway in cities to strengthen middle neighborhoods with a particular focus on Detroit, Milwaukee and Baltimore. The authors of chapters in this section are very close to the ground and offer sound practical examples and advice on how to strengthen middle neighborhoods.

The final section is focused on the policy and program changes needed at the local level to provide support to those working to improve middle neighborhoods. Particular detail is paid to mechanisms that balance physical improvements with preserving the historic character that helps to make many of these neighborhoods attractive in the marketplace.

The authors in this volume hope to reinvigorate a discussion about improving middle neighborhoods in America’s cities and suburbs as a complement to the discussion underway nationally and in many local settings about improving distressed neighborhoods or coping with gentrification.

From the Preface by Paul C. Brophy, Principal, Brophy & Reilly LLC

Table of Contents

The Middle Neighborhood Movement, 1970-2000

Joe McNeely, Healthy Neighborhoods, Inc., and Paul C. Brophy, Brophy & Reilly, LLC

Where did the energy to revitalize middle neighborhoods come from, where did it go, and what was left behind?

The Case for Intervention in Middle Neighborhoods

George Galster, Hilberry Professor of Urban Affairs, Wayne State University

Establishes a rationale for why scholars and policymakers should seriously consider middle neighborhoods as a locus of potential policy innovation and intervention.

Demographics and Characteristics of Middle Neighborhoods in Select Legacy Cities

Ira Goldstein, William Schrecker, and Jacob L. Rosch, The Reinvestment Fund

Offers a data-based description of the middle neighborhoods of several legacy cities: Baltimore, Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis.

Is the Urban Middle Neighborhood an Endangered Species? Multiple Challenges and Difficult Answers

Alan Mallach, Center for Community Progress

Looks directly at the challenges facing middle neighborhoods in legacy cities.

Homeownership and the Stability of Middle Neighborhoods

Alan Mallach, Center for Community Progress

What role does homeownership play in the vitality of middle neighborhoods in legacy cities?

Strategies to Improve Middle Neighborhoods

David Boehlke, czb planning and The Healthy Neighborhoods Group

Offers approaches being used by residents and city officials around the country to reinvigorate middle neighborhoods.

Using Place Branding Strategy to Create Homebuyer Demand for Legacy City Neighborhoods

Marcia Nedland, Fall Creek Consultants

Shares background on place branding and how it is working in communities across America.

The Healthy Neighborhoods Program: A Middle Neighborhoods Improvement Strategy

Mark Sissman, Healthy Neighborhoods Inc., and Darlene Russell, Greater Milwaukee Foundation

Provides an overview of the Healthy Neighborhoods program and shares examples of how it’s working in Baltimore and Milwaukee.

Understanding Middle Market Neighborhoods as Vital Parts of Regional Economies

Robert Weissbourd, RW Ventures, LLC

Describes the connection between neighborhood and regional economic growth and proposes a solution aligned with and contributing to regional growth in today’s economy.

Rebuilding from Strength as a Strategy to Safeguard Middle Neighborhoods in Detroit: A Philanthropic Perspective

Wendy Jackson, The Kresge Foundation

Describes the interventions and outcomes of the Kresge Foundation’s Reimagining Detroit 2020 program.

Local Public Policy and Middle Neighborhoods

Henry S. Webber, Brown School of Social Work and Washington University

Highlights the role local governments can play in preserving America’s middle neighborhoods.

Preservation in Middle Neighborhoods: Promising Results in Ohio

Cara Bertron, Preservation Rightsizing Network and Nicholas Hamilton, The American Assembly

Makes the case for a community-oriented preservation model that supports long-time residents, creates pathways for newcomers, and strengthens neighborhoods for all.