Cities have generally had to plan for growth, but many Pennsylvania cities now face shrinking populations. That doesn't mean they get to stop planning.
Erie is the 4th largest city in Pennsylvania, but it is among the last of the top 15 to catch up to the comprehensive plan bandwagon. Under the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code only counties need to come up with a comprehensive plan, but city planners highly recommend them for municipalities as well.
To Kim Green, Erie’s Director of Community and Economic Development, the new plan is a matter of rightsizing. The city was once home to 140,000 people, but now its population is hovering around 100,000. The city will try to serve the needs of remaining residents and hold on to them by implementing a comprehensive plan for the first time.
Erie officials are hoping their plan will set the long-term strategy for retaining young people, attracting businesses to the downtown, and dealing with its surplus of vacant and abandoned properties. Erie has an estimated 6,000 properties that are considered valueless, meaning no one would think of buying them, they don't generate taxes, and they can't be used for rental housing to provide a cash flow to owners.