Thinking small isn’t easy — not when growth is the politically hip thing to do.

For struggling Rust Belt cities like Cleveland and Detroit, civic leaders need to buy into the idea that it’s hip to be square and transform their communities into smaller, greener and healthier metropolises, experts say.

Their future depends on it. But experts warn that making a successful transition will require a vision that breaks with tradition, a new political will, and smarter spending of financial resources currently strained by the mortgage crisis and steep economic downturn.

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