The Public Architects (PA) Committee promotes excellence in public architecture and enhances the role of the public architect as an essential element in the planning, design, construction, and management of public facilities. Join us!
I find this discussion interesting because (from my experience as a land use planner, urban designer, development consultant and developer) there is no such thing as a "comeback neighbourhood". The subject neighbourhood area(s) that may be depressed and/or underutilized contain the same geography, topography, general proximity to major or significant land use development tools or catalysts for new and or marketable development that could foster their revitalization, i.e. highways for commerce, water front areas for commerce, trade and possible scenic development. They almost all contain the physical edifices of their respective historic development; i.e. residential structures of differing densities; office buildings, government institutions, municipal support facilities like schools, post offices, etc. and industrial buildings (large and small) reflecting the significant commerce engine at the time of their respectful "hay day periods". Each neighbourhood, and their respective supporting infrastructures (i.e. water & sewer, roadways and bridges, street lights, sidewalks, street lights and signs,etc) all reflecting (good or bad) the level of their physical degradation by their physical condition based upon the economic pace of decline of each neighbourhood.Above and beyond these physical characteristics are the drivers that create change and sustain and upgrade all neighbourhoods:(1) a sustainable, dynamic economy; driven by several commercial drivers (and industry(ies) of some type that can grow and sustain itself well into the future (a one industry neighbourhood will never survive and is doomed to fail); (2) astute and business savvy private business community tuned into managing their respective enterprises well and planning for the future changes in their respective industries (including planning for the termination of that industry by new technologies); (3) astute public purpose public/political leadership that can work in harmony with the private sector and the constituents they represent in order to create a mutually supportive blending of both the private sector needs for growth, expansion and change while maintaining the public trust and preserving neighbourhood values, and its environment and history.
-Without the aforementioned key factors neighbourhoods are doomed to fail. It's not a neighbourhood comeback, its a neighbourhood taking a long an objective look at all the issues I mentioned above and coming together with an objective willingness to recognize what they have physically and making a unified commitment to collectively work together the enhance (and change), embellish sustain and/or grow their neighbourhoods.
I agree with your assessment and recommendation for starting with the long view. I would emphasize the need for a strong public/private partnership, that also includes residents and garners their commitment as well. Given the repercussions of the Recession, we have been forced to do more with less -- less in the budget, fewer employees, reductions in support. I don't believe we will find ourselves with more money and sufficient staff for a long, long time. Citizens expect the same level of service, because no one tells them otherwise.
The opportunity here is to instigate a new sense of civic participation. Helping your neighbors, volunteering to help care for parks, supporting neighborhoods - even as small as 1 street - to work together to improve their street front property, repair and paint houses, and plant trees. This won't work if it is the only effort, but it can catalyze positive change and grow stronger neighborhoods.