Open Access
Reese, Ian Chandler
Graduate Program:
Landscape Architecture
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
May 20, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Sean Burkholder, Thesis Advisor
  • Caru Bowns, Thesis Advisor
  • Kelleann Foster, Thesis Advisor
  • Peter John Aeschbacher, Thesis Advisor
  • Landscape Architecture
  • Altoona
  • Smart Growth
  • Planning
  • GIS
Industrial cities of the developed world are faced with new challenges today. These cities, like Detroit MI, Youngstown, OH, and St. Louis MO, once leaders of manufacturing and industry, now face the realities of depopulation, suburbanization, and manufacturing decline. Many of these cities, some labeled as shrinking cities today, are accepting their changing infrastructure and seeking alternative policies in planning to help stem the losses of finance and human capital from leaving their borders. One alternative some city planners are implementing are the planning principals of Smart Growth. Smart Growth, developed in the early 1990s, is a universally accepted planning policy endorsed by the federal government and prominent planning organizations to help guide new and infill development in urban regions. This policy is aimed at attempting to offset environmental damage caused by sprawling building practices and poor infill development policy. Altoona, PA, is one such city exploring Smart Growth policies to mitigate depopulation and suburbanization through their comprehensive planning strategies. The purpose of this thesis is to examine how Smart Growth principles may be applied in shrinking cities, using Altoona, PA as a case study. Smart Growth planning is chosen for its early history of infill development and it potential to mitigate shrinking conditions in cities like Altoona. Altoona is portrayed as a shrinking city based on four criteria: depopulation, deindustrialization, suburbanization, and globalization. Each criterion is examined for its role in the shrinking process and related to conditions existing in Altoona today. Based on this analysis, a demographic profile for Altoona is developed and used to more accurately compare Smart Growth planning practices in a shrinking city. This thesis will attempt to answer two questions: 1) What Smart Growth planning principles are viable in a shrinking city like Altoona, PA? and 2) What Smart Growth planning principles are not viable in a shrinking city like Altoona, PA? This thesis will conclude that Smart Growth planning does have a role in shrinking cities today; however, this role may be limited due to a lack of demographic diversity.