Revitalizing American Cities

Revitalizing American Cities

Revitalizing American Cities

Revitalizing American Cities


Small and midsized cities played a key role in the Industrial Revolution in the United States as hubs for the shipping, warehousing, and distribution of manufactured products. But as the twentieth century brought cheaper transportation and faster communication, these cities were hit hard by population losses and economic decline. In the twenty-first century, many former industrial hubs--from Springfield to Wichita, from Providence to Columbus--are finding pathways to reinvention. With innovative urban policies and design, once-declining cities are becoming the unlikely pioneers of postindustrial urban revitalization.

Revitalizing American Cities explores the historical, regional, and political factors that have allowed some industrial cities to regain their footing in a changing economy. The volume discusses national patterns and drivers of growth and decline, presents case studies and comparative analyses of decline and renewal, considers approaches to the problems that accompany the vacant land and blight common to many of the country's declining cities, and examines tactics that cities can use to prosper in a changing economy. Featuring contributions from scholars and experts of urban planning, economic development, public policy, and education, Revitalizing American Cities provides a detailed, illuminating look at past and possible reinventions of resilient American cities.

Contributors: Frank S. Alexander, Eugenie L. Birch, Paul C. Brophy, Steven Cochrane, Gilles Duranton, Sean Ellis, Kyle Fee, Edward Glaeser, Daniel Hartley, Yolanda K. Kodrzycki, Sophia Koropeckyj, Alan Mallach, Ana Patricia Muñoz, Jeremy Nowak, Laura W. Perna, Aaron Smith, Catherine Tumber, Susan M. Wachter, Kimberly A. Zeuli.


Small and mid-sized cities played a key role in the Industrial Revolution in the United States. Well-positioned cities like Allentown and Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, with easy access to coal from the north and railroad connections to the east, became ground zero for manufacturing the steel that built the nation. New En gland towns, like Beverly and Southbridge in Massachusetts, imported British technology and produced cheap fabrics for the textile industry. Newly built canals in the 1820s turned Dayton, Ohio, and Erie, Pennsylvania, into hubs for shipping, warehousing, and distributing manufactured products.

The rise and fall of the steel industry in particular reflect not only manufacturing trends in the United States but also the fate of older industrial cities. During the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth, Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Steel Company, Bethlehem Steel, and its neighbors the Allentown Iron Company and the Allentown Rolling Mills in Allentown all thrived, supplying the steel used in building skyscrapers and in the growing manufacturing sector. Bethlehem Steel’s warships were a critical contribution to World War I and II victories. As late as 1964, Bethlehem Steel was building its largest plant to date. Clearly, the steel companies and their communities expected manufacturing to retain its vibrant and predominant position in a growing economy and in the cities that produced the product. While manufacturing was dominant, northeastern and midwestern cities, by pro cessing raw materials and manufacturing products, prospered and grew.

And then it changed. Transportation became cheaper, communication became easier, foreign companies became more competitive, and the U.S. manufacturing industry seemed to be down for the count. In 2001, Bethlehem Steel filed for bankruptcy. By 2003, it no longer existed. Other factories closed. Imported foreign steel hit cities like Allentown and Bethlehem particularly hard. Manufacturing profits tumbled and the cities that relied on these industries declined. In response to these broad economic changes . . .

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