From the NY Times:
A GLOBAL economic crisis provides the perfect opportunity to rethink the design of an old city — be it Paris or Orange — said a French urbanist who has been engaged in doing that recently, both there and here.
“Cities have this time to consider intelligently what they are going to be in the future,” said the urbanist, Michel Cantal-Dupart, through an interpreter, as he conducted a walking tour on a rainy day in early April along the streets of Orange’s mostly dreary downtown section. “Then, when things improve,” he said, “the cities will know what to do.”
Mr. Cantal-Dupart recently served on a team of architects and planners commissioned by the French government to re-envision the master plan for Paris, which at the age of 2,000 faces special challenges in becoming a “sustainable” city of the future. The team’s proposals were unveiled in March.
This month, he was asked to help to do something similar for 200-year-old Orange, at the behest of a nonprofit development corporation called Hands Inc. Harnessing federal, state and private grant money to rebuild troubled neighborhoods in Essex County, the group has been based here since the early 1980s.
Until now, it has relied mostly on a strategy of “finding the worst houses on the block, and turning them around one by one,” said Patrick Morrissy, the group’s executive director.
In fact, several days before the activity in Orange, Hands expanded on its primary strategy with the announcement of a nonprofit alliance to buy 47 abandoned and neglected houses in Essex County — all foreclosure properties owned by the former Washington Mutual Bank.
The houses are in Orange, West Orange, Newark and Irvington, all communities hit especially hard by foreclosures.
“We have to keep up this critical work,” Mr. Morrissy said, “because the current crisis is threatening the impact of all we have done in the last 25 years.”