University of Pennsylvania Press

Metropolitan Portraits

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Metropolitan Portraits

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Driving Detroit

The Quest for Respect in the Motor City

By George Galster

For most of the twentieth century, Detroit was a symbol of American industrial might, a place of entrepreneurial and technical ingenuity where the latest consumer inventions were made available to everyone through the genius of mass production. Today, Detroit is better known for its dwindling population, moribund automobile industry, and alarmingly high murder rate. In Driving Detroit, author George Galster, a fifth-generation Detroiter and internationally known urbanist, sets out to understand how the city has come to represent both the best and worst of what cities can be, all within the span of a half century. Galster invites the reader to travel with him along the streets and into the soul of this place to grasp fully what drives the Motor City.

With a scholar's rigor and a local's perspective, Galster uncovers why metropolitan Detroit's cultural, commercial, and built landscape has been so radically transformed. He shows how geography, local government structure, and social forces created a housing development system that produced sprawl at the fringe and abandonment at the core. Galster argues that this system, in tandem with the region's automotive economic base, has chronically frustrated the population's quest for basic physical, social, and psychological resources. These frustrations, in turn, generated numerous adaptations—distrust, scapegoating, identity politics, segregation, unionization, and jurisdictional fragmentation—that collectively leave Detroit in an uncompetitive and unsustainable position.

Partly a self-portrait, in which Detroiters paint their own stories through songs, poems, and oral histories, Driving Detroit offers an intimate, insightful, and perhaps controversial explanation for the stunning contrasts—poverty and plenty, decay and splendor, despair and resilience—that characterize the once mighty city.

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Greater Portland

Urban Life and Landscape in the Pacific Northwest

By Carl Abbott

Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2001

It has been called one of the nation's most livable regions, ranked among the best managed cities in America, hailed as a top spot to work, and favored as a great place to do business, enjoy the arts, pursue outdoor recreation, and make one's home. Indeed, years of cooperative urban planning between developers and those interested in ecology and habitability have transformed Portland from a provincial western city into an exemplary American metropolis. Its thriving downtown, its strong neighborhoods, and its pioneering efforts at local management have brought a steady procession of journalists, scholars, and civic leaders to investigate the "Portland style" that values dialogue and consensus, treats politics as a civic duty, and assumes that it is possible to work toward public good.

Probing behind the press clippings, acclaimed urban historian Carl Abbott examines the character of contemporary Portland—its people, politics, and public life—and the region's history and geography in order to discover how Portland has achieved its reputation as one of the most progressive and livable cities in the United States and to determine whether typical pressures of urban growth are pushing Portland back toward the national norm.

In Greater Portland, Abbott argues that the city cannot be understood without reference to its place. Its rivers, hills, and broader regional setting have shaped the economy and the cityscape. Portlanders are Oregonians, Northwesteners, Cascadians; they value their city as much for where it is as for what it is, and this powerful sense of place nurtures a distinctive civic culture. Tracing the ways in which Portlanders have talked and thought about their city, Abbott reveals the tensions between their diverse visions of the future and plans for development.

Most citizens of Portland desire a balance between continuity and change, one that supports urban progress but actively monitors its effects on the region's expansive green space and on the community's culture. This strong civic participation in city planning and politics is what gives greater Portland its unique character, a positive setting for class integration, neighborhood revitalization, and civic values. The result, Abbott confirms, is a region whose unique initiatives remain a model of American urban planning.

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Metropolitan Philadelphia

Living with the Presence of the Past

By Steven Conn

As America's fifth largest city and fourth largest metropolitan region, Philadelphia is tied to its surrounding counties and suburban neighborhoods. It is this vital relationship, suggests Steven Conn, that will make or break greater Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia region has witnessed virtually every major political, economic, and social transformation of American life. Having once been an industrial giant, the region is now struggling to fashion a new identity in a postindustrial world. On the one hand, Center City has been transformed into a vibrant hub with its array of restaurants, shops, cultural venues, and restored public spaces. On the other, unchecked suburban sprawl has generated concerns over rising energy costs and loss of agriculture and open spaces. In the final analysis, the region will need a dynamic central city for its future, while the city will also need a healthy sustainable region for its long-term viability.

Central to the identity of a twenty-first century Metropolitan Philadelphia, Conn argues, is the deep and complicated interplay of past and present. Looking at the region through the wide lens of its culture and history, Metropolitan Philadelphia moves seamlessly between past and present. Displaying a specialist's knowledge of the area as well as a deep personal connection to his subject, Conn examines the shifting meaning of the region's history, the utopian impulse behind its founding, the role of the region in creating the American middle class, the regional watershed, and the way art and cultural institutions have given shape to a resident identity.

Impressionistic and beautifully written, Metropolitan Philadelphia will be of great interest to urbanists and at the same time accessible to the wider public intrigued in the rich history and cultural dynamics of this fascinating region. What emerges from the book is a wide-ranging understanding of what it means to say, "I'm from Philadelphia."

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Metropolitan Phoenix

Place Making and Community Building in the Desert

By Patricia Gober

Inhabitants of Phoenix tend to think small but live big. They feel connected to individual neighborhoods and communities but drive farther to get to work, feel the effects of the regional heat island, and depend in part for their water on snow packs in Wyoming. In Metropolitan Phoenix, Patricia Gober explores the efforts to build a sustainable desert city in the face of environmental uncertainty, rapid growth, and increasing social diversity.

Metropolitan Phoenix chronicles the burgeoning of this desert community, including the audacious decisions that created a metropolis of 3.6 million people in a harsh and demanding physical setting. From the prehistoric Hohokam, who constructed a thousand miles of irrigation canals, to the Euro-American farmers, who converted the dryland river valley into an agricultural paradise at the end of the nineteenth century, Gober stresses the sense of beginning again and building anew that has been deeply embedded in wave after wave of human migration to the region. In the early twentieth century, the so-called health seekers—asthmatics, arthritis and tuberculosis sufferers—arrived with the hope of leading more vigorous lives in the warm desert climate, while the postwar period drew veterans and their families to the region to work in emerging electronics and defense industries. Most recently, a new generation of elderly, seeking "active retirement," has settled into planned retirement communities on the perimeter of the city.

Metropolitan Phoenix also tackles the future of the city. The passage of a recent transportation initiative, efforts to create a biotechnology incubator, and growing publicity about water shortages and school funding have placed Phoenix at a crossroads, forcing its citizens to grapple with the issues of social equity, environmental quality, and economic security. Gober argues that given Phoenix's dramatic population growth and enormous capacity for change, it can become a prototype for twenty-first-century urbanization, reconnecting with its desert setting and building a multifaceted sense of identity that encompasses the entire metropolitan community.

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Miami

Mistress of the Americas

By Jan Nijman

As a subtropical city and the southernmost metropolitan area in the United States, Miami has always lured both visitors and migrants from throughout the Americas. During its first half-century they came primarily from the American North, then from the Latin South, and eventually from across the hemisphere and beyond. But if Miami's seductive appeal is one half of the story, the other half is that few people have ever ended up staying there. Today, by many measures, Miami is one of the most transient of all major metropolitan areas in America.

Miami: Mistress of the Americas tells the story of an urban transformation, perfectly timed to coincide with the surging forces of globalization. Author Jan Nijman connects different historical episodes and geographical regions to illustrate how transience has shaped the city to the present day, from the migrant labor camps in south Miami-Dade to the affluent gated communities along Biscayne Bay. Transience offers opportunities, connecting business flows and creating an ethnically hybrid workforce, and also poses challenges: high mobility and population turnover impede identification of Miami as home.

According to Nijman, Miami is "mistress of the Americas" because of its cultural influence and economic dominance at the nexus of north and south. Nijman likens the city itself to a hotel; people check in, go about their business or pleasure, then check out. Locals, born and raised in the area, make up only one-fifth of the population. Exiles, those who have come to Miami as a temporary haven due to political or economic necessity, are typically yearning to return to their homeland. Mobiles, the affluent and well educated, who reside in Miami's most prized neighborhoods, are constantly on the move.

As a social laboratory in urban change and human relationships in a high-speed, high-mobility era, Miami raises important questions about identity, citizenship, place-attachment, transnationalism, and cosmopolitanism. As such, it offers an intriguing window onto our global urban future.

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The Research Triangle

From Tobacco Road to Global Prominence

By William M. Rohe

Over the past three decades, the economy of North Carolina's Research Triangle—defined by the cities of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill—has been transformed from one dependent on agriculture and textiles to one driven by knowledge-based jobs in technology, telecommunications, and pharmaceuticals. Now home to roughly 1.7 million people, the Research Triangle has attracted an influx of new residents from across the country and around the world while continuing to win praise for its high quality of life. At the region's center is the 7,000-acre Research Triangle Park, one of the nation's largest and most prominent research and development campuses. Founded in 1959 through a partnership of local governments, universities, and business leaders, Research Triangle Park has catalyzed the region's rapid growth and hastened its coalescence into a single metropolitan area.

The Research Triangle: From Tobacco Road to Global Prominence describes the history, current challenges, and future prospects of this fascinating metropolitan area. Focusing on the personalities and perspectives of key actors in the development of the region, William M. Rohe traces the emergence of the Research Triangle Park and its role in the region's economic transformation. He also addresses some of the downsides of development, illustrating the strains that explosive population growth has placed on the region's school systems, natural resources, transportation infrastructure, and social cohesion. As Rohe shows, the Research Triangle is not a city in the traditional sense but a sprawling conurbation whose rapid, low-density growth and attendant problems are indicative of metropolitan life in much of America today. Although the Triangle's short-term prospects are bright, Rohe warns that troubling issues loom—the region is expected to add nearly a million residents over the next two decades—and will need to be addressed through improvements in governmental cooperation, regional planning, and civic leadership. Finally, the author outlines key lessons that other metropolitan areas can learn from the Research Triangle's dramatic rise to prominence.

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Toronto

Transformations in a City and Its Region

By Edward Relph

Extending a hundred miles across south-central Ontario, Toronto is the fifth largest metropolitan area in North America, with the highest population density and the busiest expressway. At its core old Toronto consists of walkable neighborhoods and a financial district deeply connected to the global economy. Newer parts of the region have downtown centers linked by networks of arterial roads and expressways, employment districts with most of the region's jobs, and ethnically diverse suburbs where English is a minority language. About half the population is foreign-born—the highest proportion in the developed world. Population growth because of immigration—almost three million in thirty years—shows few signs of abating, but recently implemented regional strategies aim to contain future urban expansion within a greenbelt and to accommodate growth by increasing densities in designated urban centers served by public transit.

Toronto: Transformations in a City and Its Region traces the city's development from a British colonial outpost established in 1793 to the multicultural, polycentric metropolitan region of today. Though the original grid survey and much of the streetcar city created a century ago have endured, they have been supplemented by remarkable changes over the past fifty years in the context of economic and social globalization. Geographer Edward Relph's broad-stroke portrait of the urban region draws on the ideas of two renowned Torontonians—Jane Jacobs and Marshall McLuhan—to provide an interpretation of how its current forms and landscapes came to be as they are, the values they embody, and how they may change once again.

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