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Special Issue "Shrinking Cities—Testing Ground for Sustainability"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Urban and Rural Development".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 10 April 2019

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Karina Pallagst

Department International Planning Systems, Faculty of Urban and Environmental Planning, Technische Universität Kaiserslautern, Erwin-Schrödinger-Straße 1, 67663 Kaiserslautern, Germany
Website | E-Mail
Phone: +49(0)6312055155
Interests: comparative urban development; shrinking cities; urban growth; planning cultures; border studies; green infrastructure
Guest Editor
Dr. Helen Mulligan

Cambridge Architectural Research Limited, 25 Gwydir St, Cambridge CB1 2LG, UK
Website | E-Mail
Phone: +44 (0)1223 460475
Interests: shrinking cities; sustainable urbanism; climate responsive design; energy efficiency in the building stock; energy policy; green finance
Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Beatriz Fernandez Agueda

Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), 54 boulevard Raspail, 75006 Paris, France
Website | E-Mail
Phone: +33(0)782382955
Interests: metropolitan development; shrinking cities; comparative urban planning; global studies; capital cities

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In ongoing discussions on urban planning and development, the term ‘shrinking city’ usually describes a densely populated urban area that has faced a considerable population loss, and is also currently undergoing profound economic transformations with some symptoms of a structural crisis [1]. Meanwhile, an extensive debate has arisen on shrinking cities, their challenges, policies, and efforts to maintain or regain quality of life.

Furthermore, shrinking cities are places where urban sustainability can be reinvented and where environmental issues are an important catalyst for change [2]. In a context where the land and population pressure is lower, they offer multiple opportunities for new uses of urban space. Reforestation and the development of urban agriculture are among the strategies that provide a new perspective for shrinking cities. They are also places to experiment with innovative environmental options, such as low-energy projects or new management processes in infrastructure networks.

Can shrinking cities, in a context of limited financial resources, be considered as opportunities with multiple modes of expression? Could shrinking cities encompass new spaces for creativity and sustainability, and what form will these initiatives take?

This Special Issue will focus on how the fate of shrinking cities depends on the way in which local, regional and national governance tackle the issue, with a particular focus on sustainability. We present a wide range of approaches to exploring and evidencing these questions, including case studies all over the world, embracing both quantitative and qualitative empirical research, as well as original contributions in the field of urban theory.


  1. Pallagst, K. Shrinking Cities--Planning Challenges from an International Perspective. Urban Infill, Themenheft--Cities Growing Smaller; Kent State University: Cleveland, OH, USA, 2008; pp. 6-16.
  2. Mulligan, H. Environmental Sustainability Issues for Shrinking Cities: US and Europe. In Shrinking Cities, International Perspectives and Policy Implications; Pallagst, K., Wiechmann, T., Martinez-Fernandez, C., Eds.; Routledge: Abingdon, UK, 2014; pp. 279-302.

Prof. Dr. Karina Pallagst
Dr. Helen Mulligan
Prof. Dr. Beatriz Fernandez Agueda
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1700 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • Shrinking cities
  • Planning cultures
  • Planning policies
  • Green infrastructure
  • Sustainable urban development
  • Comparative urban development

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Open AccessArticle Sustainable Downtown Development for the Tsunami-Prepared Urban Revitalization of Regional Coastal Cities
Sustainability 2019, 11(4), 1020; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11041020
Received: 27 December 2018 / Revised: 28 January 2019 / Accepted: 12 February 2019 / Published: 15 February 2019
PDF Full-text (9469 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Regional cities in Japan are facing a decline in the downtown area owing to urban expansion and a decrease in the population. Promoting downtown living is indispensable for the realization of downtown revitalization. Since many coastal cities originally developed outward from a port, [...] Read more.
Regional cities in Japan are facing a decline in the downtown area owing to urban expansion and a decrease in the population. Promoting downtown living is indispensable for the realization of downtown revitalization. Since many coastal cities originally developed outward from a port, their downtown areas are located near the coast and are at high risk of tsunamis. The purpose of this research is to reveal the effectiveness of dealing with the above two issues in parallel by evaluating the Deae-ru Saiwai estate, a public housing relocation project in downtown Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan that incorporates a tsunami evacuation facility with questionnaires and a GIS survey. Placing public housing in the downtown area shortens the distance to public facilities and improves the convenience of the surrounding environment for many residents. Installing the tsunami evacuation facility improves the feeling of reassurance of residents who would feel anxiety about immigration with regards to tsunamis. This research has clarified the synergistic effect of dealing with the daily and emergency issues in parallel for promoting downtown living. Planning downtown revitalization and disaster prevention concurrently, which has been separated so far, is a fundamental planning approach for urban revitalization in regional coastal cities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Shrinking Cities—Testing Ground for Sustainability)

Figure 1

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Ttitle: Spatial shrinkage of office supply in Tokyo
Authors: Chihiro Shimizu (Nihon University and MIT), Masatomo Suzuki (The University of Tokyo) and Kohei Kawai(Xymax Real Estate Institute)
Abstract: Although metropolises in the world are currently growing, they face the risk of shrinkage in the future. This paper investigates the office property market in Tokyo, which is one of the largest in the world but facing a shrinkage of the labor force since 2000. We show that the geographical area of office supply is recently “shrinking”, in line with the large scale redevelopment of the central area. As a result, old and small/medium sized offices face larger vacancies, and some are converted to residential uses. These evidences suggest that the concept of shrinking cities is also applicable to the office market and allowing large redevelopment in the limited central area has a potential to transform the metropolis to a more compact form.
Keywords: Shrinking cities, Metropolis, Office, Market analysis, Tokyo

Title: Understanding the socio-spatial impacts of a design-led approach to post-earthquake recovery and regeneration in Christchurch New Zealand
Authors: Diane Brand and Natalie Allen
Affiliation: University of Auckland, Level 3, Conference Centre, 22 Symonds Street, Auckland
Abstract: In the aftermath of the earthquakes, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority established a Central City Development Unit to master-plan and deliver a new central city that  would upgrade a 19th century core for 21st century amenity. Eight years on there are varying opinions about how successful the design and implementation of the Blueprint Plan has been. As the city emerges from the rebuild phase into the regeneration phase of the post-earthquake journey, it is an opportune time to consider the impact of a design-led response and how it has shaped the new urban fabric. Using the criteria established in the recent Central City Momentum review, this research explores how three key objectives of the blueprint (a compact core, a green city, and an accessible city) have been achieved by comparing the proposed scope for the precincts to the eventual scope and delivery of these precincts.
Keywords: Urban regeneration, resilience, design-led, local governance, spatial planning

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