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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Shrinkage at the Urban Fringe: Crisis or Opportunity?

  • Author(s): Zakirova, Betka
  • et al.

Shrinkage in suburbia has not been widely researched yet. This paper examines communities and towns in Berlin’s suburbs undergoing processes of shrinkage and regeneration after the fall of the Wall. The communities which experienced population decline in 1992- 2008 were concentrated in the eastern suburbs. In two thirds of 63 communities, employment declined (1994-2006). Selective population in- and out-migration, lack of land demand and investments, increasing competition, accompanying shock-like transformation and globalisation, plus disadvantageous location factors all tend to cause shrinkage. The Berlin-Brandenburg Metropolitan Region is a unique urban laboratory where growth and shrinkage occur side by side and de-centralization and centralisation occur simultaneously, all in a heterogeneous, polycentric urban region. Hence, a patchwork pattern appears on every scale. The paper concludes that shrinkage is not “abnormal” nor is it always negative and needing to be concealed. Rather, suburban shrinkage is an integral, indeed inevitable, part of every city’s life, and it often presents interesting and valuable positive planning opportunities. A major future challenge for urban studies is to discuss how to shift paradigms from “perpetual linear growth” to “cycles that include shrinkage”.

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