America's New Downtowns: Revitalization or Reinvention? / Edition 1

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Overview

What makes a good downtown, and why? Are today's downtowns, with their waterfront parks, festival markets, sports arenas, and cultural centers, more vibrant and lively than the "central business districts" of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? Was there ever a "golden age" of downtowns? In this book, noted urban scholar Larry Ford casts a critical and practiced eye on sixteen contemporary urban centers to offer an expert's view of the best—and worst—of downtown America.

Ford begins with a brief history of U.S. urban development. He then explains his criteria for evaluating downtowns before proceeding with an on-the-street examination of the featured sixteen cities. Each is rated based on use of physical site, particularly for housing (unlike suburbs, Ford notes, most downtowns are located in challenging physical locales, such as harbors, rivers, hills, or peninsulas), street morphology, civic space, functional aspects (office space, retail stores, and convention centers), and the support districts in the fringe areas surrounding the downtown core. Ford concludes with a suggested model of downtown structure based upon the case studies and with a look at the possible effects of increasing globalization on the downtowns of the late twenty-first century. This book will appeal to those interested in urban studies, landscape studies, American studies, architecture, historic preservation and planning, and urban geography.

Featured cities: Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlotte, Cleveland, Columbus, Denver, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Providence, San Antonio, San Diego, Seattle, and St. Louis

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
Perceptive... Challenging myths of an idyllic past, Ford offers a new historical and comparative overview that reads downtowns through process as well as through an assemblage of different elements—topography, places, activities, attractions, facilities, and connections... The historical and programmatic illuminations of this study should interest general readers and academic and planning professionals alike.
Professional Geographer
How rare and refreshing it is to come across a book that abruptly transforms our vision of the world, or at least a significant segment thereof. Just such a splendid rarity is Larry Ford's America's New Downtowns. After declaring that 'Our old models and generalizations are out of date' and that his goal is to get people thinking about what makes a good downtown and why,' our author offers a provocative new model and a wealth of empirical evidence and insights that could keep us thinking about and observing the core neighborhoods of our cities, and perhaps even their betterment, for some time to come... This is a major contribution to our understanding of contemporary American life. File it under 'Required Reading.'.

— Wilbur Zelinsky

Choice

Perceptive... Challenging myths of an idyllic past, Ford offers a new historical and comparative overview that reads downtowns through process as well as through an assemblage of different elements—topography, places, activities, attractions, facilities, and connections... The historical and programmatic illuminations of this study should interest general readers and academic and planning professionals alike.

Indiana Magazine of History
This is a book with a purpose that succeeds admirably in not becoming partisan. It is a serviceable book that does what it sets out to do, which is to create a vocabulary of comparative terms for assessing American downtowns.

— Jerry Herron

Urban Morphology
The fruit of long experience and extensive recent observations.

— Jurgen Lafrenz

Progress in Human Geography
Ford is a knowledgeable commentator on the American City.

— David Ley

Pennsylvania Geographer
The text is free of jargon, argues its points in a straightforward manner and can easily be read by the general public interested in the topic.

— Ola Johansson

Professional Geographer - Wilbur Zelinsky
How rare and refreshing it is to come across a book that abruptly transforms our vision of the world, or at least a significant segment thereof. Just such a splendid rarity is Larry Ford's America's New Downtowns. After declaring that 'Our old models and generalizations are out of date' and that his goal is to get people thinking about what makes a good downtown and why,' our author offers a provocative new model and a wealth of empirical evidence and insights that could keep us thinking about and observing the core neighborhoods of our cities, and perhaps even their betterment, for some time to come... This is a major contribution to our understanding of contemporary American life. File it under 'Required Reading.'.
Indiana Magazine of History - Jerry Herron
This is a book with a purpose that succeeds admirably in not becoming partisan. It is a serviceable book that does what it sets out to do, which is to create a vocabulary of comparative terms for assessing American downtowns.
Urban Morphology - Jurgen Lafrenz
The fruit of long experience and extensive recent observations.
Progress in Human Geography - David Ley
Ford is a knowledgeable commentator on the American City.
Pennsylvania Geographer - Ola Johansson
The text is free of jargon, argues its points in a straightforward manner and can easily be read by the general public interested in the topic.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801871634
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 7/15/2003
  • Series: Creating the North American Landscape
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 340
  • Sales rank: 1,149,336
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Larry R. Ford is a professor of geography at San Diego State University and has taught urban geography for thirty years. He is the author of Cities and Buildings: Skyscrapers, Skid Rows, and Suburbs and The Spaces between Buildings, both available from Johns Hopkins.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Contents:

Preface

Introduction

The Downtown Imperative and the Need for Comparative Studies1. The American Downtown: The Myth of a Golden Age

2. The Evolution of the American Downtown, 1850–2000

3. The Downtown Stage: Physical Site, Street Morphology, and Civic Space

4. Traditional Downtown Functions: Offices, Retailing, Hotels, and Convention Centers

5. Downtown Expands: Major Attractions, Historic Districts, Residential Neighborhoods, and Transportation Innovations

6. Ranking Downtowns: Toward a Model of Spacial Organization

Notes

Bibliography

Index

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Reading Group Guide

This is micro-regional geography at its best, and the narrative is enriched throughout by the author's intimate field knowledge of every downtown and every activity he discusses. America's New Downtowns will find a lasting place in the literature of urban geography and urban studies and planning.
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