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Syracuse Urban Long Term Research Area (ULTRA)
Center for the Urban Environment

Positioning Rust Belt Cities for a Sustainable Future: A Systems Approach to Enhancing Urban Quality of Life

Project Summary

Once dominated by energy-intensive, ferrous-based industries, “rust belt” cities were the backbone of the U.S. economy, but over the last 50 years their populations and economies contracted dramatically with many social and ecological ramifications. These include large areas of vacant properties, abandoned houses, and brownfields. These liabilities may become assets, however, by positioning rust belt cities for metabolic revitalization in the face of looming uncertainties over climate, energy, and economy. By re-envisioning blighted urban spaces and reconnecting to regional natural productive capacity, rust belt cities may arrive at a more sustainable social and ecological future. We propose to study with local stakeholders the process of urban greening to mitigate rust belt urban “blight” while enhancing the socio-ecological metabolism (SEM) of these cities.


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State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry
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