Ashland University Environmental Lecture to Focus on Urban Planning

Ashland University Environmental Lecture to Focus on Urban Obsolescence

1/23/13 ASHLAND, Ohio – Ashland University’s Environmental Lecture Series continues its series on “The Ecology of Urban Living” with a Jan. 31 lecture by Terry Schwarz, director of Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative.

This lecture, which is set for 7:30 p.m. in the Hawkins-Conard Student Center Auditorium, is titled “Urban Obsolescence and the Adaptive Values of Cities.” This lecture is free and open to the public.

Ms. Schwarz will speak about how persistent, large-scale population decline is a challenging issue for many cities in the U.S., particularly older industrial cities like Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, St. Louis and Pittsburgh. 

Populations peaked in the 1950s in these cities and have continually lost residents since then. In light of national population trends, new policies are beginning to take shape about the future of shrinking cities. It is unknown whether these places will be able to stabilize their populations and experience long-term regrowth. 

For now, Schwarz suggests that we can use the growing inventories of vacant land in shrinking cities as a laboratory for understanding and restoring urban ecosystems.

"Vacant properties offer opportunities to increase biodiversity, sequester carbon, restore rivers and lakes, eradicate hunger and improve public health in urban settings,” she said. “Rapidly growing cities inevitably damage natural systems — declining cities can repair them. By integrating ecological processes into the built environment, shrinking cities can create a new template for future development that is sustainable, equitable and economically self-sufficient.”

Schwarz works on neighborhood and campus planning, commercial and residential design guidelines, storm water management and green infrastructure strategies. She teaches for the KSU College of Architecture and Environmental Design.

She launched the CUDC's Shrinking Cities Institute in 2005 in an effort to understand and address the implications of population decline and large-scale urban vacancy in Northeast Ohio. In 2009, Schwarz received the Cleveland Arts Prize for Design. Schwarz has a bachelor's degree in English from the Illinois Institute of Technology and a master's degree in city and regional planning from Cornell University.

More information about Schwarz is available at the website:

This is the third talk in this year's Environmental Lecture Series on the general topic of "The Ecology of Urban Living." Previous speakers have addressed the impacts of urban environments on water resources and the prospects of urban farming. The declines in population that we have seen regionally in cities such as Cleveland and Detroit actually run counter to national and global trends toward more and more urbanization of human populations. 

Seventy-nine percent of the U.S. population and 51 percent of the world’s population now live in urban areas. The realities of city living include high-density development, the importation of resources, export of wastes, and demand for the infrastructure needed to support quality of life. Cities boast both environmental positives and negatives, but above all, cities may seem quite apart from the natural world. Is this really the case? Can nature thrive in the city? Can cities be sustainable systems?

Recent lectures are archived for viewing at Current support for the lecture series is provided by a grant from the Lubrizol Foundation and additional support from Ashland University.

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Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2013, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University ( values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.