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CSU conference weighs role of past in future of American cities

What role does the past have to play in the future of the urban environment?

That was the question at the heart of Historic Preservation in America’s Legacy Cities, a three-day conference presented by the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University and the Cleveland Restoration Society.

The well-attended event brought nearly 300 preservationists, policymakers, elected officials, developers, scholars and students from 20 states to CSU in June for a full slate of presentations, workshops and tours of downtown Cleveland and surrounding neighborhoods.

Attendees examined the role of historic preservation in revitalizing cities where long-term population loss and economic decline present significant challenges.

“When you have a place with too many buildings and you talk about preservation, those two things seem to be in conflict,” conference co-organizer Stephanie Ryberg-Webster, Ph.D, told Art and Architecture Critic Steve Litt of The Plain Dealer.

“We’re at a point where the future of a lot of neighborhoods in these cities is very uncertain,” said Dr. Ryberg-Webster, assistant professor of urban studies at CSU. “Not just the buildings – the social fabric of neighborhoods is also at question. Foreclosure has ripped apart families and communities. The landscape of the city is certainly going to change if we demolish even half of what is planned to be demolished.”

CSU’s Levin College, ranked among the nation’s top schools for urban affairs by U.S. News & World Report, offers a certificate in historic preservation program for graduate students and professionals seeking to learn about historic preservation to enhance their careers in local government, preservationists, urban planning and other urban-oriented professions.