Editor's note: After decades of decline, many U.S. cities are showing signs of rebirth. This three-part series examines a little of what happened to pull people and development away from cities, what's attracting them back, how shrewd private investors are spotting trends, and what institutional investment and redevelopment projects have done to bring some cities back to life. (Read Part 1, "Why cities shrink ... and grow," and Part 3, "Redevelopment and institutional investment in shrunken cities.") A glance at property listings in historically shrunken cities would make any small investor drool. Rents at $400 per unit per month, in a two-unit building for $70,000? Sign me up! But the underlying reality is less fantastic, and locals know the crucial details that out-of-town investors miss when blinded by an impressive balance sheet. Such details could mean the difference between a sure-fire investment and a sure-fire flop. Take Philadelphia, for instance. The duplex on 48th Street t...
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