KRUMHOLZ, NORMAN (June 17, 1927-December 21, 2019) was Cleveland’s City Planning Director from 1969-1979 and a professor of urban affairs at CLEVELAND STATE UNIVERSITY from 1979 until his death in 2019. Krumholz was born to Izzak and Molly Krumholz, Moldovan immigrants, in Passaic, New Jersey. He earned a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and his masters from Cornell University in urban planning.

Brought to Cleveland by Mayor CARL STOKES, Krumholz was an early proponent of equity planning, a form of city planning that rebelled against the then-popular urban reform. Krumholz argued that city planners should “plan the most for those with the least,” rather than pandering to businesses and corporations. Throughout his career, he stood against attempts to prioritize businesses over residents of an area; one modern day example is his opposition to Opportunity Corridor, which cuts through disadvantaged communities in order to link UNIVERSITY CIRCLE to I-490.

Krumholz’s major contribution to the field of urban planning is the 1975 Policy Planning Report, which set out programs and policies that would bolster pre-existing neighborhoods as opposed to demolishing and redesigning new city spaces. Before Krumholz became the City Planning Director for Cleveland, urban renewal often implied the wholesale destruction of lower class neighborhoods for the construction of middle-class amenities. In the 1975 Policy Planning Report, Krumholz argued that the city had a duty for “promoting more choices for those individuals who have few, if any, choices.” Throughout his career, Krumholz noted the connection between urban planning, socioeconomic status, and race; the report argues that city planning should focus on equity but that equity cannot be achieved through city planning alone. Instead, he argues that larger social institutions must work together in order to combat inequity. As a result, his 1975 City Planning Report does not offer a quick fix to social problems but offers a long-term plan for creating meaningful societal changes.

Although Krumholz promoted equity planning and helped detail many of its core tenets, critics argue that his actual actions do not match his purported claims. They point to his support of the destruction of dilapidated buildings in lower-class neighborhoods and his use of the triage system to overlook the communities most in need. Indeed, during Krumholz’s career, the city of Cleveland continued its use of arson as a form of cheap demolition in lower-class areas. Racial tensions remained high throughout his term as director. However, Krumholz’s power as City Planning Director was limited; throughout his career, he continued to advocate for equity planning and heavily contributed to literature surrounding it.

Krumholz’ impact on urban planning extends beyond his personal accomplishments and efforts. Even if his policies did not sometimes uphold the tenets he claimed to support, his work outside of the Cleveland’s City Planning Commission promoted and amplified equity planning. Most notably, as a professor of urban affairs at Cleveland State University, Krumholz introduced many students to the concept. Krumholz actively reminded students that they were working for residents, not businesses, and encouraged students to remember the inhabitants of their cities. 

Krumholz passed at the age of 92.  His wife Virginia Martin Krumholz predeceased him in 2014.  The couple had three children, Laura, Andrew, and Daniel.  Following his death, former colleagues and students wrote extensively about his impact on both the field of urban planning and their individual lives. These writings highlight the importance of his accomplishments and commemorate his life and career.

Michele Lew

Kerr, Daniel. Derelict Paradise: Homelessness and Urban Development in Cleveland, Ohio. University of Massachusetts Press, 2011.
McGraw, Michael. “A History of Fifty Years of Community Planning with Norman Krumholz.” Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless. March 5, 2014.
Litt, Steven. “Former Cleveland Planning Director Norman Krumholz, Nationally Respected Advocate of Equity Planning, is Dead at 92.” January 3, 2020.
Krumholz, Norman. “Krumholz Early Papers.” Edited by Pierre Clavel. Cornell ECommons. Accessed on August 29, 2022.
Krumholz, Norman. “Equity and Local Economic Development.” Economic Development Quarterly 5 no. 4(1991); 291-300. doi/10.1177/089124249100500401
Cleveland City Planning Commission. Cleveland Policy Planning Report. 1975.
Martens, Benno. “Plan the Most for Those with the Least: Remembering Norman Krumholz.” Rust Belt Future. March 3, 2020.
Allard, Sam. “Norm Krumholz, 92, Leaves Legacy of Equity Consciousness in Cleveland.” Scene. January 6, 2020.
School of Urban Affairs Faculty and Staff. “Levin Legacies: Norman Krumholz, Professor Emeritus.” Cleveland State University. Accessed on August 29, 2022.


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