Policy Focus Reports
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ISBN: 978-155844-412-6
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ISBN: 978-1-55844-413-3
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Equitably Developing America’s Smaller Legacy Cities

Investing in Residents from South Bend to Worcester

Erica Spaid Patras, Alison Goebel, and Lindsey Elam

May 2021, English

The strategies outlined in Equitably Developing America’s Smaller Legacy Cities will be vital in rebuilding more racially and economically equitable legacy cities. Every municipal leader in the country should engage with this guide and be bold in their efforts to revitalize their communities in a post-COVID era.”

Akilah Watkins, president and CEO, Center for Community Progress.

Former industrial and manufacturing hubs like Dayton, Ohio, and Gary, Indiana—known as legacy cities—need not choose between economic growth and equity, as growth is most durable when it benefits everyone. Legacy cities can promote long-term growth while addressing racial and economic inequities laid bare by COVID-19 with strategies mapped out in this report. Using case studies of successful initiatives, this report guides practitioners through equitable investment in both physical projects and people.


Rebuilding With Equity: The Future of Smaller Legacy Cities, June 29, 2021, will feature presentations from leaders who have implemented some of the strategies outlined in this report.

Policy Brief 

A four-page Policy Brief summarizes this report’s recommendations.

About the Authors

Erica Spaid Patras is senior manager of special projects at the Greater Ohio Policy Center.

Alison Goebel is executive director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center.

Lindsey Elam is manager of research at the Greater Ohio Policy Center.


“This report demonstrates a keen understanding of legacy cities, and the policy recommendations are robust and easily understandable.”

Jason Segedy, Director of Planning and Urban Development, Akron, Ohio

“Confronting and correcting the legacy of racism is one of the most pressing issues facing smaller, older industrial cities today, particularly in a post-COVID world. Equitably Developing America’s Smaller Legacy Cities lays out a series of clear recommendations for leaders in small legacy cities to build more equitable and thriving communities.”

Nan Whaley, Mayor, Dayton, Ohio

“This report provides a clear rationale and framework for applying equitable development principles in legacy cities, as well as detailed examples of how local innovators are putting those principles into practice. Patras, Goebel, and Elam’s insights will both inform and inspire legacy city leaders.”

Alan Berube, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director, Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program

Equitably Developing America’s Smaller Legacy Cities is an actionable report that offers both overarching strategic guidance and thoughtful tactical advice to advance equity in the context of facilitating economic growth. The recommendations and case studies, which center on the opportunities and challenges presented by smaller legacy cities, are broadly sharable, valuable lessons for practitioners and stakeholders in all places, irrespective of size.”

Priscilla Almodovar, President and Chief Executive Officer, Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.


Economic Development, Inequality, Local Government