The Slow, Steady Cumulative Influence
Of A Planning Guru Named Krumholz
'Reader, if you seek a monument, look around.'
--an inscription near the tomb of Sir Christopher Wren, the British architect who designed much of classical London.
Lately, there's been much attention paid to a seemingly new concept in urban economic development circles: planning for cities that aren't growing, or those that are actually shrinking. Much of the attention has centered on Youngstown, which lost more than half its population in the generation since the steel plants closed, and which has smartly begun comprehensively adjusting to the reality. But of course Cleveland also tends to come up in this discussion as well. USA Today recently published this much-remarked-upon piece about the trend.
But the intellectual architect of this approach is a legendary planning guru who headed the city planning department under three Cleveland mayors and who now teaches at CSU's College of Urban Affairs. Norm Krumholz's national, even international, influence continues to spread even on this, the eve of his ninth decade, through his writing, teaching and shepherding of his far-flung disciples (who include everyone from former first spouse of Cleveland Hunter Morrison, who now works in Youngstown, to University Circle's Chris Ronayne and the Gund Foundation's Bob Jaquay). The occasional brown bag lunch conversations he convenes are legendary in planning circles, and I hope to be allowed to sit in and listen to one sometime soon to experience it for myself.
But back to that concept of his having been an intellectual architect for the urban right-sizing movement. Don't take my word for it. Instead, you could listen to author Kenneth Fox:
Cleveland City Planning Director Norman Krumholz and his associates dramatized the issues for the planning profession by emphasizing that almost all large central cities were losing population, including many that were aggressively pursuing economic development. No perfectly coordinated industrial, commercial, office, tourism and housing development strategy could magically reverse declines at one stroke. Krumholz and associates employ a sophisticated political pragmatism that quickly became known as the 'no-growth planning.'
You'll find that passage in a semi-obscure book published by the University of Mississippi Press, which I happily came upon some time ago and added to my library. It's entitled Metropolitan America: Urban Life and Urban Policy in the U.S., 1940-1980. And it was published more than 20 years ago, in 1986.
And yet, just months shy of his 80th birthday, he shows little sign of retreating from his life's work. Late last year, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson appointed Norm to the city planning commission. That means that when his final chapter has been written, he'll likely have made significant contributions to Cleveland's planning vision over parts of six decades. That, my friends, is what you would call leaving one's mark on the world.