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Revitalizing American Cities

Edited by Susan M. Wachter and Kimberly A. Zeuli

Publication Year: 2013

Small and midsized cities played a key role in the Industrial Revolution in the United States as hubs for the shipping, warehousing, and distribution of manufactured products. But as the twentieth century brought cheaper transportation and faster communication, these cities were hit hard by population losses and economic decline. In the twenty-first century, many former industrial hubs—from Springfield to Wichita, from Providence to Columbus—are finding pathways to reinvention. With innovative urban policies and design, once-declining cities are becoming the unlikely pioneers of postindustrial urban revitalization.

Revitalizing American Cities explores the historical, regional, and political factors that have allowed some industrial cities to regain their footing in a changing economy. The volume discusses national patterns and drivers of growth and decline, presents case studies and comparative analyses of decline and renewal, considers approaches to the problems that accompany the vacant land and blight common to many of the country's declining cities, and examines tactics that cities can use to prosper in a changing economy. Featuring contributions from scholars and experts of urban planning, economic development, public policy, and education, Revitalizing American Cities provides a detailed, illuminating look at past and possible reinventions of resilient American cities.

Contributors: Frank S. Alexander, Eugenie L. Birch, Paul C. Brophy, Steven Cochrane, Gilles Duranton, Sean Ellis, Kyle Fee, Edward Glaeser, Daniel Hartley, Yolanda K. Kodrzycki, Sophia Koropeckyj, Alan Mallach, Ana Patricia Muñoz, Jeremy Nowak, Laura W. Perna, Aaron Smith, Catherine Tumber, Susan M. Wachter, Kimberly A. Zeuli.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: The City in the Twenty-First Century


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Title Page, About the Series, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. 1-4

Small and mid-sized cities played a key role in the Industrial Revolution in the United States. Well-positioned cities like Allentown and Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, with easy access to coal from the north and railroad connections to the east, became ground zero for manufacturing the steel that built the nation. New England towns, like Beverly and Southbridge in Massachusetts, imported...

Part I. City Decline and Revival

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Chapter 1. The Historical Vitality of Cities

Edward Glaeser

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pp. 7-25

At the start of the nineteenth century, Americans left dense enclaves on the eastern seaboard to populate the empty spaces in the hinterland; at the start of the twenty-first century, Americans are moving back to cities. After a period of net losses in the second half of the twentieth century, many older cities are again experiencing population growth. But not every urban area is...

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Chapter 2. The Growth of Metropolitan Areas in the United States

Gilles Duranton

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pp. 26-44

Between 2000 and 2010, the population of metropolitan areas grew on average by 10.8 percent in the United States. This average masks considerable heterogeneity. Of 366 metropolitan areas, 42 lost population while 65 grew by 20 percent or more during this decade.
City decline leads to calls for a policy response. In the United States and other developed countries, a wide...

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Chapter 3. The Relationship Between City Center Density and Urban Growth or Decline

Kyle Fee, Daniel Hartley

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pp. 45-64

One striking characteristic of shrinking metropolitan statistical areas such as Detroit and Cleveland is the amount of vacant land and number of abandoned buildings in close proximity to the central business districts (CBDs) of their central cities. This lies in stark contrast to growing MSAs such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco, or Boston. Yet, in many shrinking...

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Chapter 4. Central Cities and Metropolitan Areas: Manufacturing and Nonmanufacturing Employment as Drivers of Growth

Steven Cochrane, Sophia Koropeckyj, Aaron Smith, Sean Ellis

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pp. 65-80

Over the past forty years, metropolitan areas have grown in both population and employment (see Figure 4.1), with suburban growth within metros outpacing that of central cities. This chapter examines trends in employment and population growth in cities and suburbs of the nation’s metro areas, in particular focusing on the historical deindustrialization and the loss of...

Part II. Discovering Resilience

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Chapter 5. Lessons from Resurgent Mid-Sized Manufacturing Cities

Yolanda K. Kodrzycki, Ana Patricia Muñoz

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pp. 83-104

Mid-sized manufacturing cities have struggled for decades, suffering the consequences of deindustrialization and suburbanization (Bluestone and Harrison 1982; Glaeser and Kahn 2001a; Krugman 1991). Some cities, however, have been able to reinvent themselves and are recognized as vital communities today. We call these “resurgent cities,” and they provide important lessons...

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Chapter 6. Revitalizing Small Cities: A Comparative Case Study of Two Southern Mill Towns

Kimberly Zeuli

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pp. 105-124

At the start of the twentieth century, the textile industry had started to shift its base from New England to the South; by the 1920s, North Carolina had become the center. At the peak of the industry in the United States, in the late 1940s, 9.3 percent of all textile jobs were located in North Carolina. Many of these jobs were in rural, small towns. Rural manufacturing was at...

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Chapter 7. Parallel Histories, Diverging Trajectories: Resilience in Small Industrial Cities

Alan Mallach

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pp. 125-146

The transformation of the United States from an agrarian nation to the world’s leading industrial economy during the nineteenth century began in the small cities of the northeastern United States such as Reading, Pennsylvania, or Lowell, Massachusetts. Many of these places remained important manufacturing centers even after the growth of larger industrial...

Part III. Land and Neighborhood Policy

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Chapter 8. A Market-Oriented Approach to Neighborhoods

Paul C. Brophy

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pp. 149-167

Asking a group of city planning students for measures of neighborhood health usually produces a good list of textbook answers: crime, school quality, poverty rate, number of vacant structures, price trends, and so forth. Ask that same group of students why they choose to live where they do and another kind of answer emerges: “I like my neighborhood because it’s diverse,” “I want to be near the bar scene,” “I want a place with a yard for my...

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Chapter 9. Transformation Is Messy Work: The Complex Challenge of Spatial Reconfiguration in America's Legacy Cities

Alan Mallach

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pp. 168-188

As America’s older industrial cities like Detroit, Cleveland, or Pittsburgh grew during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, their spatial configuration followed a common path shared by most Western cities of that or earlier periods. Within the constraints imposed by water bodies or topography, their growth followed the classic density gradient model of urban form (Muth...

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Chapter 10. Tactical Options for Stable Properties

Frank S. Alexander

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pp. 189-204

All cities face a constant challenge of confronting deterioration of vacant, abandoned, and substandard properties. The costs of neglect—promulgated by these vacant, abandoned, substandard, or tax-delinquent properties—are real; while these burdens have long been apparent, in recent years the costs of neglect have been empirically demonstrated and verified, and they are...

Part IV. The New Economy and Cities

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Chapter 11. Anchor Institutions in the Northeast Megaregion: An Important but Not Fully Realized Resource

Eugenie L. Birch

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pp. 207-223

As former manufacturing cities in the United States seek to reinvent their economies, they have engaged in several types of revitalization strategies to use their key asset, land, to attract investment in new industries. Land is a critical ingredient for revitalization because it supports activities that generate income for both the public and private sectors, which, in turn, generate...

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Chapter 12. Fields, Factories, and Workshops: Green Economic Development on the Smaller-Metro Scale

Catherine Tumber

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pp. 224-241

“I hope no reader will try to transfer my observations into guides as to what goes on in towns, or little cities, or in suburbs,” Jane Jacobs wrote in a rarely cited passage of The Death and Life of Great American Cities. “Towns, suburbs, and even little cities are totally different organisms from great cities. We are in enough trouble already from trying to understand big cities in terms of...

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Chapter 13. Promoting Workforce Readiness for Urban Growth

Laura W. Perna

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pp. 242-255

Between 2003 and 2009, the gap between the educational attainment of the population and the educational demands of available jobs (that is, “structural unemployment”) increased in all but four of the nation’s hundred largest metropolitan areas (Rothwell and Berube 2011). Given that a larger education gap between the demand and supply of educated workers is associated with a...

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Jeremy Nowak

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pp. 256-260

The nation’s economy has slowly evolved from an agricultural to an industrial to a postindustrial base, transforming our cities along the way. Some cities have grown, reinventing their economies and physical landscapes. Other cities have deteriorated. How, when, and where does revitalization occur? What factors contribute to cities’ capacities to prosper despite a...


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pp. 261-276

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pp. 277-282

Frank S. Alexander is the Sam Nunn Professor of Law at Emory University School of Law and cofound er of the Center for Community Progress. He is the author or editor of eight books and over fifty articles on real estate finance and community redevelopment. His work has focused on homelessness and affordable housing. He served as a Fellow of the Carter Center of...


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pp. 283-304


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pp. 305-320

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pp. 321-322

The complex and interrelated problems of population decline and the loss of legacy manufacturing industries have left many of the nation’s older industrial cities facing a range of economic and social challenges. To explore strategies that communities can use to address these challenges, the Community Development Studies and Education Department of the Federal...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812208887
E-ISBN-10: 0812208889
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812245554
Print-ISBN-10: 0812245555

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 40 illus.
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: The City in the Twenty-First Century
Series Editor Byline: Eugenie L. Birch and Susan M. Wachter, Series Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 865565036
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Revitalizing American Cities

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Subject Headings

  • Urban renewal -- United States -- History -- 21st century.
  • City planning -- United States -- History -- 21st century.
  • Urbanization -- United States -- History -- 21st century.
  • Urban renewal -- United States.
  • City planning -- United States.
  • Urbanization -- United States.
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