APWA Book Review

The American City: What Works, What Doesn't (2nd Edition)
560 pp * 2002 * McGraw Hill Professional Publishing * Alexander Garvin

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?

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. In 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. Taking a unique multidisciplinary approach to the complex challenges for urban and suburban regeneration, Garvin shows how the combination of individual 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 crisis as 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 suburbs.

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 suburban planning in which public action generates a desirable, widespread, and sustained private market reaction.

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

  • The need for city planning to generate a widespread and sustained private market reaction in order to succeed
  • Innovative ways to revitalize cities through the use of parks, playgrounds, cultural centers, convention centers, 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
  • 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 municipal improvement
  • The ways in which the fully pedestrianized street, the transit way, and second-floor skywalk systems can affect the economy, utility, and quality of life of cities
  • 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!

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:

  • 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 previous edition

Whether your interest is government, the nonprofit sector or the private market, if the subject is cities and how they work then this book is the place to begin. For more information on purchasing this book and other American Public Works Association books, please visit the APWA Bookstore online at www.apwa.net/bookstore or call the Member Services Hotline at (800) 848-APWA, ext. 5254.