The Heart of the City
6 x 9
100 b/w figures and photos
6 x 9
100 b/w figures and photos
Downtowns are more than economic engines: they are repositories of knowledge and culture and generators of new ideas, technology, and ventures. They are the heart of the city that drives its future. If we are to have healthy downtowns, we need to understand what downtown is all about; how and why some American downtowns never stopped thriving (such as San Jose and Houston), some have been in decline for half a century (including Detroit and St. Louis), and still others are resurging after temporary decline (many, including Lower Manhattan and Los Angeles). The downtowns that are prospering are those that more easily adapt to changing needs and lifestyles.
In The Heart of the City, distinguished urban planner Alexander Garvin shares lessons on how to plan for a mix of housing, businesses, and attractions; enhance the public realm; improve mobility; and successfully manage downtown services. Garvin opens the book with diagnoses of downtowns across the United States, including the people, businesses, institutions, and public agencies implementing changes. In a review of prescriptions and treatments for any downtown, Garvin shares brief accounts—of both successes and failures—of what individuals with very different objectives have done to change their downtowns. The final chapters look at what is possible for downtowns in the future, closing with suggested national, state, and local legislation to create standard downtown business improvement districts to better manage downtowns.
This book will help public officials, civic organizations, downtown business property owners, and people who care about cities learn from successful recent actions in downtowns across the country, and expand opportunities facing their downtown. Garvin provides recommendations for continuing actions to help any downtown thrive, ensuring a prosperous and thrilling future for the 21st-century American city.
"Heavily informed by examples...The Heart of the City is practical, packed with information, and a reminder that 'Downtowns are unable to change anything. People change downtowns.'"
"The Heart of the City...provides plentiful information that will assist planners, developers, businesspeople, and activists engaged in the promotion and management of the resurgence of downtowns... there is much to learn for academics interested in downtown development and planning from this practice oriented book."
Journal of Urban Affairs
"The book is concise and readable yet packed with a well-balanced mix of data and examples, arranged into eight clearly outlined chapters that build upon one another and conclude with bold proposals for how to give downtowns the powerful tools they need to continue thriving…. this book should be required reading for city officials as well as for the leadership and staff of BIDs, CDCs, and other downtown organizations."
Journal of the American Planning Association
"Alex Garvin looks at cities with a clearer eye than any other planner in America. He loves cities, but I think he loves empirical observation even more. This book is a paean to downtown, driven not by dogma but by a realistic, practical sensibility and an understanding of how cities really work, seasoned with passion and a lifetime of knowledge."
Paul Goldberger, architecture critic and Contributing Editor, Vanity Fair
"In her great 1960s song, Petula Clark sang 'Downtown, everything is waiting for you.' Five decades later, Alex Garvin, one of our great urbanists, eloquently and concretely illuminates how to execute on the same timeless formula for downtowns to thrive—mass transit to dense mixed use, a great public realm, retail, and culture."
Dan Doctoroff, Founder and CEO, Sidewalk Labs
"Alex Garvin is one of the country's most knowledgeable urban planners. His insights, based on more than half a century's experience, are essential for understanding the potential of civic space and urban development going forward."
Deborah Berke, Dean, Yale School of Architecture
Chapter 1: What is Downtown?
Chapter 2: Where is Downtown?
Chapter 3: How and Why Downtown America is Changing
Chapter 4. People Who Are Changing Downtown
Chapter 5. Organizations that are Changing Downtown
Chapter 6. Lessons for Any Downtown
Chapter 7. Emerging 21st Century Downtowns
Chapter 8. Creating Vibrant Downtowns for a New Generation
In recent decades, downtowns across the United States have been transformed by new growth and economic activity. In his new book, Heart of the City, distinguished urban planner Alex Garvin digs into the recent resurgence of cities including Boston, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Seattle. He offers thoughtful recommendations for civic leaders and elected officials to build thriving downtowns by enhancing the public realm, promoting a dynamic mix of uses including new and rehabilitated residences, and improving mobility. Cocktails and canapés will be served, and books will be available to be signed.
Why are some downtowns in trouble while others are thriving? How have those that were on the decline, like lower Manhattan, become resurgent? What does it take to ensure a healthy future for the heart of America’s cities?
Distinguished urban planner Alexander Garvin will answer these questions with Paul Goldberger, noted architecture critic and contributing editor at Vanity Fair. In this conversation on Garvin’s new book The Heart of the City: Creating Vibrant Downtowns for a New Century, Garvin identifies shared elements of great downtowns, offers lessons from successful and failed projects, and charts a path forward for prosperous downtowns.
A book signing follows the event.
Downtowns are more than economic engines: they are repositories of knowledge and culture and generators of new ideas, technology, and ventures. If we are to have healthy downtowns, noted urban planner Alexander Garvin argues, we need to understand how and why some American downtowns never stopped thriving, some are in decline, while still others, including Lower Manhattan, are resurging. In The Heart of the City, Garvin proffers how to plan for a mix of housing, businesses, and attractions; improve mobility; manage services; and enhance the public realm to ensure urban vitality.
Reservations are required, and priority is given to Members and Corporate Member firms and their employees. All guests MUST RSVP to email@example.com to assure admittance to the event.
If cities are to be home to healthy downtowns, it is imperative to understand why some succeed, others are resurging after temporary contractions and still others have been continually declining for decades. The new book The Heart of the City diagnoses why places like Houston continue to thrive while Detroit and St. Louis stumble and offers a plan for housing, business and attractions that improves mobility and services. Come hear the steps necessary to improve our cities’ crucial urban cores. Co-presented by Island Press.
+ Alexander Garvin / author
SPUR Urban Center
654 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105-4015
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
See map: Google Maps
free for SPUR members
$10 for non-members
Pre-registration is not required for this event.
As long as downtowns thrive, we can be certain of a prosperous and thrilling future for the American city. Some downtowns, including Uptown Houston and Atlanta’s Buckhead, have never stopped thriving. Others, such as downtown Detroit, have been in decline for half a century. A third trajectory includes downtowns such as lower Manhattan and downtown Los Angeles that were once on the decline and are now resurgent. Why are some downtowns in trouble while others are thriving? And what does it take to ensure a healthy future for the heart of America’s cities?
Distinguished urban planner Alexander Garvin answers these questions and lays out concrete recommendations to help any downtown thrive in The Heart of the City: Creating Vibrant Downtowns for a New Century. Drawing on nearly five decades of experience studying and working in America’s cities, Garvin identifies shared elements of great downtowns, offers lessons from successful and failed projects, and charts a path forward to support downtowns into the twenty-first century.
Check out Chapter 1 "What is Downtown?" below or download the PDF here.
Alexander Garvin, the author of two Island Press books, died at the close of 2021. His love of cities and optimism about what they could be, did not seem to be diminished by working on some of the most complex urban projects. What Makes a Great City developed from his two-year expedition to answer that question after he was asked by a friend. He took an answer as basic as “people are what make a city great” and turned it into a beautiful, interesting exploration of the value of an inviting, vibrant public realm. After publication, he cheerfully (for the most part) defended his choices of great cities. Alex wrote that the work reinforced what he already believed: “that a great city, unlike a great painting or sculpture, is not an exquisite, completed artifact.” He will be missed.
Read the preface to What Makes a Great City here or below.
Heather Boyer is VP/Executive Editor at Island Press and 2005 Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.