Community development at its core is about transformation. Community development practitioners are engaged in the complex work of taking something old — housing units, neighborhoods, cities — and transforming them so that they can be put to a new and better use. There is an implicit belief in this work that our communities are worth saving, and with the right investment of time, talent, and resources, they can be transformed into happier, healthier, more productive places to live and prosper.
Several articles in this issue of Cascade focus on the promise of transformation. The article “One River — Two Cities” highlights lessons learned from the experience of two cities — Camden, NJ, and Philadelphia — and their individual and joint efforts to redevelop the waterfront area. Both cities have seen great potential in taking advantage of the natural resources that the waterfront affords, and they’ve made great strides in creating new entertainment, commercial, and residential venues in these formerly forgotten spaces. Our authors highlight lessons learned from their experiences and share insights on future development activities.
Pennsylvania’s new land banking legislation is another tool that can ultimately help transform cities within the state that have been devastated by the increase in vacant properties. It is estimated that there are more than 300,000 vacant properties across the state. Through this measure, certain cities will have the ability to create land banks that can acquire properties and put them to reuse as residential, commercial, or conservation space. Land banks are playing a key role in communities across the nation, changing the look of communities by creating new uses for abandoned places.
What transformations are you seeing in your communities? As always, we’d like to hear from you about the tools that you are using to bring about positive changes and the ways in which you are overcoming the challenges associated with this work. We’d be especially interested in hearing about “lessons learned” in community development practice that could be instructional for other communities as we begin planning for the Reinventing Older Communities conference, which will be held May 12 to May 14, 2014, in Philadelphia.