• 360 pages
  • 6 x 9
  • 4 halftones, 6 maps
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  • Price: $39.95
  • EAN: 9781439920824
  • Publication: Oct 2022
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  • EAN: 9781439920817
  • Publication: Oct 2022

A Good Place to Do Business

The Politics of Downtown Renewal since 1945

Roger Biles and Mark H. Rose

The “Pittsburgh Renaissance,” an urban renewal effort launched in the late 1940s, transformed the smoky rust belt city’s downtown. Working-class residents and people of color saw their neighborhoods cleared and replaced with upscale, white residents and with large corporations housed in massive skyscrapers. Pittsburgh’s Renaissance’s apparent success quickly became a model for several struggling industrial cities, including St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

In A Good Place to Do Business, Roger Biles and Mark Rose chronicle these urban “makeovers” which promised increased tourism and fashionable shopping as well as the development of sports stadiums, convention centers, downtown parks, and more. They examine the politics of these government-funded redevelopment programs and show how city politics (and policymakers) often dictated the level of success.

As city officials and business elites determined to reorganize their downtowns, a deeply racialized politics sacrificed neighborhoods and the livelihoods of those pushed out. Yet, as A Good Place to Do Business demonstrates, more often than not, costly efforts to bring about the hoped-for improvements failed to revitalize those cities, or even their downtowns.

Reviews

A Good Place to Do Business brilliantly exposes municipal and business leaders’ decades-long preoccupation with insulating their cities’ downtowns from seismic postwar metropolitan change. They spared no expense, but cities’ most vulnerable citizens paid steeper costs. Through a fresh interpretation of racialized downtown renewal and the people who championed or fought it in five cities, Biles and Rose narrate with precision and clarity an essential but troubling national tale of how myopic, downtown-centered visions for urban revitalization blurred as boosters peered at the city from their gleaming towers.
J. Mark Souther, Professor of History at Cleveland State University, and author of Believing in Cleveland: Managing Decline in “The Best Location in the Nation” (Temple)

A Good Place to Do Business is a powerful yet nuanced story told by two of the most important urban historians writing today. Biles and Rose take us on a fascinating tour of the commercial, investment, and political cultures of big city downtowns in the decades following World War II. Along the way, we meet a plethora of actors, from mayors and ward heelers to corporate executives, planners, consultants, union bosses, and neighborhood residents. And we see a wide range of programs, plans, and schemes, some of which take shape in glass and steel, others that remain on the drawing board. At the core of this compelling drama are the racial and class politics of urban America, and the sacrifice of working-class and poor neighborhoods in pursuit of the elusive dream of a downtown renaissance. But the story is not straightforward, and the comparative framework shows different paths and divergent outcomes among Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland, and Philadelphia. It is this comparative approach, and the deft hand of two great scholars, that makes this book an outstanding addition to the literature.”
Joseph Heathcott, Chair of Urban and Environmental Studies at The New School

About the Author(s)

Roger Biles is Professor Emeritus of History at Illinois State University and the author, coauthor, or editor of several books, most recently Mayor Harold Washington: Champion of Race and Reform in Chicago.

Mark H. Rose is Professor of History at Florida Atlantic University and the author, coauthor, or coeditor of seven books including Interstate: Highway Politics and Policy since 1939 and Market Rules: Bankers, Presidents, and the Origins of the Great Recession.

In the Series

Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy

The Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy Series, edited by David Stradling, Larry Bennett, and Davarian Baldwin, was founded by the late Zane L. Miller to publish books that examine past and contemporary cities. While preserving the series’ foundational focus on the policy, planning, and environmental issues so central to metropolitan life, we also join scholarly efforts to push the boundaries of urban studies. We are committed to publishing work at the shifting intersections of cultural production, community formation, and political economy that shape cities at all scales, from the neighborhood to the transnational.

In honor of Zane Miller, the late founding editor of our series, Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy, we invite first-time authors to apply for a grant of up to $2,500 to help advance the careers of scholars from underrepresented communities with limited financial resources.  For more information, Zane L. Miller Book Development Award

Also of Interest

Believing in Cleveland

J. Mark Souther