In 2005, Youngstown, Ohio released a comprehensive citywide plan that emphasized smart shrinkage, reflecting the city's reduced population and downsizing built environment. Coined in the early 2000s, smart shrinkage suggested that through land use planning, and eventual altering of the physical environment of a city, that planners can blunt the worse impacts of reduction of population in shrinking cities. But how is such a comprehensive plan to be implemented, and are such implementation mechanisms actually successful in achieving strategic and intentional downsizing of a city?
In 2013, Youngstown released a redevelopment code in which zoning was used to implement the city's comprehensive plan. In a new article for the Journal of the American Planning Association, Brent Ryan and Shuqi Gao examine Youngstown as a case study for the challenges presented by planners' efforts to implement smart shrinkage land use recommendations through comprehensive planning and zoning. The paper's findings provide both cautions and opportunities for urban planners and legislators charged with utilizing policy tools to confront the difficult reality of reduced local populations and lessened economic capacity in American shrinking cities.