Tool can help urban planners predict which areas will probably decline

a vacant lot in an urban area

Urban planners in shrinking Rust Belt cities grappling with a growing number of vacant lots, abandoned buildings and declining neighborhoods could get help from a new planning tool developed by Galen Newman, associate professor in the Department of Urban Planning, and a multidisciplinary team of Texas A&M University researchers.

In a Journal of Geovisualization and Spatial Analysis article, Newman outlined the tool, a geographic information systems-based model that predicts where areas of future decline will occur and identifies parcels that have the highest potential for sustained redevelopment.

With this knowledge, municipal officials can harness this new approach to new create policies that encourage nonresidential development and additional land uses that best fulfill a respective community’s needs.

Typically, planners start with land inventories and assessments to identify opportunities to deal with vacant lots, said Newman, who also heads the Texas A&M Center for Housing and Urban Development. “This approach utilizes a prediction model at the neighborhood scale to assist in decision-making processes around vacant land use.”

The project is a result of collaboration between Newman and Jennifer Horney, associate professor and head, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health; Domonic Bearfield, associate professor, School of Public Affairs and Administration, Rutgers University, formerly an associate professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service; and four current and former researchers from the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning—Donghwan Gu and Yuxian Li, graduate students; Ryun Jung Lee, lecturer; and Boah Kim, former lecturer, now an assistant professor, Department of Geography, College of Science and Mathematics, Bridgewater State University.

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