The American City: What Works, What Doesn't

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9780071373678: The American City: What Works, What Doesn't

An approach to American urban planning and design based on analysis of programs and strategies of 250 U.S. projects.

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Review:

The 1st edition of this work was published in 1995 and very quickly became a classic in the field of urban studies and was adopted as a textbook in many universities for courses in urban planning and related fields. It is not surprising that this new edition was eagerly anticipated. The author, a Yale Professor for Urban Planning and Management for over 35 years, in addition to being a practicing architect and real estate developer, attempted to discover what makes for successful urban planning by examining some 300 programs and projects in cities across the country. He focused on what he terms "the six ingredients of project success" -- market, location, design, financing, entrepreneurship, and time. Unlike previous works in the field, this volume addresses planning from a multidisciplinary approach including architectural, political, sociological, and economical aspects.

Each of the 18 chapters describes various projects and demonstrates how the six ingredients affect the success or failure of planning in specific areas: for example, housing rehabilitation, revitalizing neighborhoods, land use regulation, and preserving the past. Some of the projects described in the 1st edition are updated, as is all of the statistical information. Sections on some newer areas of concern -- entertainment centers, stadiums, environmental issues, and loft housing -- are also added. The table of contents presents an outline of the information in each chapter, making it fairly easy to find subtopics of a particular area; however, the index makes it possible to find specific projects and more detailed information. The text is enhanced by the inclusion of well-chosen black-and-white photographs, some showing before and after views of urban, and occasionally suburban, development.

Although the book will probably be used most often by students and professionals in some aspect of urban planning, the easy-to-read style, interesting content, and photographs will make it appreciated by others who are interested in making the future of their own environments more beautiful and practically livable. Both academic and public libraries should find this a useful addition to their collection. (American Reference Books Annual 2004-03-16)

By R.A. Beauregard, New School University

Since the late 19th century, Americans have endeavored to tame the country’s cities. Numerous initiatives have been directed at assuring economic viability, enhancing urban form and function, and generally making cities healthy, socially attractive, and desirable to investors. In the second edition (1st ed., CH, May ’96) of this compilation of more than 250 projects in over 100 cities, Garvin (professional urban planner and adjunct professor, urban planning and management, Yale Univ.) asses the strategies used in the last half-century to improve the physical city. Thirteen core chapters review efforts from parks and playgrounds to housing schemes, pedestrian-friendly streets, cultural centers, neighborhood revitalization, and residential suburbs. Replete with illustrations, these chapters also introduce a variety of policy tools; business improvement districts, home mortgage guarantees, and tax abatements among others. Additionally, Garvin provides separate chapters on land use regulations, comprehensive planning, and historic preservation. The book culminates with a list of six ingredients for project success – market demand, location, design, financing, entrepreneurship, and timing – and a call for strategic public actions that generate a positive private market response and sustainable projects. No other book offers such a comprehensive and practical overview of urban reinvestment initiatives. Highly recommended for collections supporting upper-division undergraduate students through professionals and two-year technical program students. (Choice 2003-02-20)

In February, when urban planner and veteran City Hall insider Alexander Garvin was tapped to oversee the rebuilding of lower Manhattan, all the local papers hit the same historical note. "Not since Robert Moses imposed his single-minded mark on the region decades ago," the Daily News wrote, "has an individual been asked to lead the re-creation of such a crucial swath of real estate."

Ah, the ghost of New York's "master builder." There's no purging him, is there? Even as clean-up workers were still unearthing human remains from Ground Zero, pressure was building on Garvin to hurry up and deliver a master reconstruction plan in a New York minute -- long-term consequences be damned.

This month, just as Garvin plunges forward with a design that will remake Manhattan on a Moses-like scale, McGraw-Hill is reissuing a newly updated version of his critically acclaimed 1995 book, The American City: What Works, What Doesn't. If Garvin's blueprint for a revitalized downtown reflects the urban philosophy he's sketched out in his book, New Yorkers need not fret the second coming of Robert Moses.

Garvin's credo is straightforward: "Only when a project also has a beneficial impact on the surrounding community can it be considered successful planning. For him, there is no singular, shining model of urban planning that can be carbon-copied; a particular region, city, or neighborhood has its own distinct features and assets that need to be capitalized on by a given project.

Encyclopedic in scale, The American City is a sweeping survey of more than 250 urban and suburban revitalization projects in America. To fine-tune his recipe for a successful formula, Garvin casts his eye over the last hundred years. He cites Chicago's creation of a lakeshore network of parks in the early 1900s -- which spurred a residential housing boom -- as one successful example. Historic preservation, as it was pioneered by Charleston and New Orleans in the mid-20th Century, is another kind.

Portland's recent rebirth also embodies, to Garvin, another successful model -- and on a much larger and fuller scale. After the city invested in a riverfront park, mass transit (a light-rail system), and walkable streets, the business community responded in kind, resulting in a boomlet of retail stores, office buildings, hotels, and apartment houses.

"Thus," Garvin concludes, "urban planning should be defined as public action that will produce a sustained and widespread private market reaction." In particular, he indicts Moses' brand of redevelopment as producing the opposite effect, because many of his colossal structures -- such as the recently razed New York Coliseum and the superblock housing projects -- resulted in a form of de facto segregation, in which residents in the area were effectively cut off from their neighbors. "This separation," Garvin writes, prevents any redevelopment benefits from "spilling over into surrounding neighborhoods and thus stimulating further private activity."

A well-respected professor of planning and architecture at Yale University, Garvin's ethos is part Frederick Law Olmsted, part Jane Jacobs: he's passionate about parks and open space but he's also an ardent proponent of mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods. The dapper academic, who favors bowties, is also no ivory-tower theorist; he's been a member of the New York City Planning Commission for the last seven years, and from 1970 to 1980, he served in city government as deputy commissioner of housing and director of comprehensive planning. Perhaps most importantly, nothing in Garvin's book or career suggests he is about to turn into a 21st century public works despot a la Moses. (City Limits 2002-06-01)

Book reference excerpted from cover story

"Whether such redevelopment requires federal subsidies is not at all clear," writes Alexander Garvin in The American City: What Works, What Doesn't. Garvin should know: He's the city's chief planner at Ground Zero. (Forbes 2002-05-27)

From the Back Cover:

Since the release of the First Edition in 1995, this critically acclaimed resource has become THE standard reference work on urban planning and design, providing proven strategies for professionals and priceless "real world" insight for students. This new Second Edition offers detailed, expert coverage of all the latest trends, projects, and programs in the ever-changing world of urban design.

"...a magnificent work. I was expecting the common sense approach to current conditions but I was surprised at the interpolation of historical lessons. There is no one that spans the two worlds better." -- Andres Duany (architect and town planner)

"I will read it again and again, sometimes from front to back, sometimes from back to front, sometimes to page through at random, sometimes to consult and help me with a particular problem. I guarantee dog-eared pages within a year." -- Paul Goldberger

The American City: What Works, What Doesn't analyzes more than 300 key programs and projects initiated in 150 major cities, suburban areas, and towns--showing why some projects succeeded brilliantly in accomplishing their goals, why others failed, and the lessons to be learned from both the successes and the failures. Taking a unique multidisciplinary approach to the complex challenges of urban and suburban regeneration, this superb sourcebook explores:
* The need for city planning to generate a widespread and sustained private market reaction in order to succeed
* The six ingredients of project success: market, location, design, financing, entrepreneurship, and time
* Innovative ways to revitalize cities through the use of parks, playgrounds, cultural centers, convention centes, shopping centers, sports arenas, and more
* Methods for increasing access to affordable housing and revitalizing neighborhoods
* Everything you need to know about zoning and historical preservation laws

NEW TO THE SECOND EDITION:
* Added sections on stadiums and entertainment centers, business improvement districts, "big box" retailing, tax credit housing, environmental issues, loft housing, and more
* Coverage of key recent projects in the most significant areas of urban planning
* Complete updates of all statistical information and projects covered in the prior edition

Whether your interest is government, the nonprofit sector, or the private market--if the subject is cities and how they work--this book is the place to begin.

What have been the very best urban and suburban projects conceived and implemented across the United States? What was the guiding philosophy behind each of them? Why were they successful? How did they make our cities, suburban areas, and towns better places?

What projects didn't work and why? Was the philosophy that inspired them misguided or was the failure in the execution? How can these unsuccessful projects help us solve the myriad of today's urban problems?

This new Second Edition of what has become THE standard reference on urban planning and design, practicing city planner and noted urban scholar Alexander Garvin surveys what has been done to improve America's cities over the past 100 years--analyzing more than 300 programs and projects. Taking a rare multidisciplinary approach, Garvin shows how the combination of individual and private-sector efforts, community-level action, and broad-based government policy can and has achieved an urban regeneration.

It is the author's contention that we DO know how to solve urban problems and have been successfully fixing cities for two centuries. He argues, that by studying and learning from the past, we CAN solve each seemingly intractable modern crises and the scarcity of public open space, the lack of safe, affordable housing, the degradation of the environment, the erosion of the tax base, and countless other problems plague our cities and suberbs.

The book presents six ingredients of project success--market, location, design, financing, entrepreneurship, and time--and examines the ways in which these factors affect success or failure. Garvin argues that project success is not enough, and that effective city planning occurs only when the project also improves the surrounding city. Consequently, he calls for a redefinition of urban and surburban planning in which public action generates a desirable, widespread, and sustained private market reaction.

AMONG THE SUBJECTS EXPLORED:
* New issues in urban planning such as stadiums and entertainment centers, business improvement districts, "big box" retailing, tax credit housing, and loft housing
* The use of parks to initiate development, change land use patterns, and reshape entire metropolitan regions
* Methods for increasing access to affordable housing and revitalizing neighborhoods
* The role of civic centers, cultural centers, convention centers, and sports centers as generators of mumicipal improvement
* The ways in which the fully pedestrianized street, the transitway, and second-floor skywalk can affect the economy, utility, and quality of life issues
* PLUS hard-to-find information on zoning law, historic preservation, and environmental protection...a look at government efforts to reduce the cost of housing development through tax policies and direct subsidies...an analysis of the dynamics of neighborhood change...and more prescriptions for solving the urban problems of the new millennium than you will find in any other book on the American city!

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