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Thoughts on Building Strong Towns, Volume 1 [Kindle Edition]

Charles Marohn
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Following World War II, the United States embarked on the great social and financial experiment of suburbanization. While it created tremendous growth, opportunity and prosperity for a generation that had just lived through economic depression and war, the way cities and regions were being built – spread out across the landscape – would ultimately be extremely expensive to sustain, far greater than the relative wealth the approach would generate. The harsh legacy of this reality is what nearly every U.S city faces today. A new approach to creating and sustaining prosperity is necessary.

Charles Marohn is the author of the Strong Towns Blog and founder of the Strong Towns movement. As a civil engineer, land use planner, economic thinker and author, he brings a fresh perspective to the way America's cities have been built and financed. His work has been widely distributed and examined by decision-makers at all levels of society.

Thoughts on Building Strong Towns is a collection of Marohn's thought-provoking essays from 2011, reworked and edited with some additional material and notes added by the author. There are 34 essays in all including: The Growth Ponzi Scheme, The Infrastructure Cult, Do we really care about children?, Complete Roads and The Diverging Diamond.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Charles Marohn is a father, husband and an imaginer of great things. He is the founder of the Strong Towns movement and currently serves as Executive Director of Strong Towns, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. He is an engineer, planner, author, columnist, podcaster and public speaker. Marohn has a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Technology. He is a licensed engineer in the state of Minnesota. He also has received a Master’s of Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute. He holds certification from the American Institute of Certified Planners. Marohn is a member of the Congress for the New Urbanism and is active in their NextGen affiliation. He is also a member of the American Planning Association and the National Society of Professional Engineers.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2391 KB
  • Print Length: 176 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008UJ3AN2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #441,781 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You need to read this. Really. August 22, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Timely and relevant, Thoughts on Building Strong Towns should be required reading for every local official and concerned citizen. Civil engineer and certified urban planner Chuck Marohn presents a clear, compelling case for what went wrong with the built environment in America, and how our growth pattern has compromised the financial stability and resilience of communities of all sizes.

Chuck offers a reasoned challenge to the conventional wisdom on issues like transportation, infrastructure spending, and economic development, taking stabs at a few sacred cows along the way; but he's never mean-spirited, always thoughtful, and provides an alternative to the established practices being followed by municipalities today.

If you're concerned about your community and want to make a difference, read this book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid book of essays from a rock solid thinker September 10, 2012
Everything you needed to know about where we've been and where we're going in the United States. Chuck Marohn details how we approach infrastructure development, and why we need to change our approach. He doesn't just describe the problem, he offers rational responses.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific introduction to the Strong Towns approach August 23, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
Of all the books I've read on urban planning, there isn't one that captures a better, more quintessential approach to managing our cities and towns. Never dogmatic, never stuck in a single mode of thinking, this is a book that emphasizes pragmatic solutions for the long term health of a community. Any idea that you read in this book will already seem feasible and that is what makes it so exciting. Best of all, Mr. Marohn's delivery is clean and clear despite the complex issues he addresses. That's a rarity.

I could go on about the many wonderful ideas and concepts that make up the "Strong Towns" approach but here's the bottom line: this book can help you make your town better (or shall I say, stronger). And with that said, let's wrap up with some hyperbole: Charles Marohn is the ten-foot tall great-nephew of Paul Bunyan who traded his ax for a pen and, with a single stroke, wrote this fine book that made every reader a better, smarter citizen.

That's closer to the truth than you may think!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good content; a little off the mark April 22, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is written in blog format - it doesn't bother me, but it may to some. I point this out because it was written over time, so the author addresses issues chronologically which makes it a bit unfocused. The book starts out interesting, with the author applying his engineering background to a topic that's so specific I can't imagine anyone just "coming across" it. So thus far, the target audience gets what they expect. About 35-40% in though, he strays from discussing urban planning and gets into the financial state of the U.S. and other countries, monetary policy, etc. While I accept that this is peripherally related to the subject of the book, the lack of firsthand experience or education regarding financial matters means I'm paying to read this guy's musings. So now I'm not getting quite what I had in mind when I bought the book.

The only other shortcoming I've noticed is something very common among infrastructure-related media; complaints. Lots and lots and lots of complaining without any practical discussion of solutions. Entire sections of the book dedicated to examples of how and why our urban sprawl is leaching resources to sustain itself. But that point is made early on (and pretty well established in common culture anyways) and doesn't need to be constantly reinforced.

I enjoyed his use of diagrams to make his points (pretty pictures!) which are well thought out and intriguing, such as the paradox that unlimited mobility has created so many inefficiencies that travel is slower. If you're interested in the subject, I would recommend this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scary but Important October 18, 2012
With an engineer's thoroughness for detail, Chuck Marohn has developed a system for evaluating and understanding the relationship between land use decisions, the benefits that they provide to the community, and the real costs to the community for those benefits. Realizing how misguided we have been during the great sprawl experiment over the last 60 years and how our decisions pertaining to infrastructure and investment have effectively bankrupted so many municipalities, as well as counties and states, is truly scary. Luckily, Chuck also provides guidance for where we should be headed, hopefully before it is too late. Chuck's book is a must read for developers, planners, government officials, mayors and municipal decision-makers. Actually, it is a must read for people who pay property taxes, as well as people who worry about what things will be like for their children in the future. Well written with a comfortable flow, Chuck is able to explain complex ideas in a way that is easy to understand. I am thinking of buying a box and handing them out to the Village Board members in my community who are making the decisions that result in my property taxes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a must read for anyone interested in urban development but weary of the impracticality and lack of economic rigor of so much current urban development talk. City planning practitioners and developers, along with anyone active in their local neighborhood assocation would all be served well by the lessons in this book. I discovered Marohn's Strong Towns initiative through some New Urbanism focused blogs that I enjoy, yet are not always practical in terms of diagnoses and solutions for problems with development. Marohn is eminentely practical. In this book, he dives to the core of the problems and perverse incentives built into the infrastruction and development policy of American towns and cities. As a resident of Atlanta, GA, a car-based city if there ever was one, I found this book so exciting because it put into words so many of the problems I've seen yet not fully defined.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read. Makes a person rethink what elements are ...
Great read. Makes a person rethink what elements are truly needed to have a successful city.
Published 12 days ago by Christopher D Borey
5.0 out of 5 stars The young civil engineer's manifesto!
As a professional engineer and traffic engineer this is a must read for those who want to make your city better. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Phillip Soares
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
It was a great book. Disneyland site no way the America builds up
Published 10 months ago by Tdoggs
5.0 out of 5 stars How to Reinvigorate our Small Towns
When Chuck Marohn speaks, I listen. Brilliant analysis on the "fuzzy" economics of Town Planning. Recipe on how to create Strong Towns. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Richard May
5.0 out of 5 stars Great reference book
Highly relevant to many of the issues facing American cities today. Unlike a normal book, this book is split into many small self-contained articles, but this makes it very easy to... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Andrew
5.0 out of 5 stars refreshing perspective for conservative planners
this book is a collection of blog posts, so beware, it reads like a blog. that said, i have really enjoyed this refreshing perspective from a conservative mind on how to... Read more
Published on March 24, 2013 by jenilee4843
4.0 out of 5 stars Still Reads Like a series of internet articles
It was enlightening to see how the mechanisms for placemaking are often self serving. Lots of good points and references in the appendix. Read more
Published on January 7, 2013 by Ryan B
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind Blowing Read
Finally, a fiscal argument has been published to support traditional town planning. Mr. Marohn has brilliantly composed a series of papers into this wonderful book. Read more
Published on January 3, 2013 by Restless Urbanist
3.0 out of 5 stars A good discussion of town-building concepts
This work features a thorough discussion of the issues which obstruct or are involved in the creation or denigration of towns and cities, particularly with respect to... Read more
Published on November 4, 2012 by Granduca
5.0 out of 5 stars A Clear View on America's Emerging Urban Condition
There is a systemic economic problem with the way we are building our towns and cities in the United States. Read more
Published on October 22, 2012 by Russell S Preston
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More About the Author

My passion is in working with cities and towns on issues of economic development, land use and engineering - particularly those places that are seeking answers as to why the standard orthodoxy has failed to create prosperity for them. This is what I write, blog, podcast and speak about. My unique perspective is informed by my formal education (engineering and land use planning) and my personal interests (economics and local government).

America's approach to growth has transformed cities rich in history, ingenuity and character into places that are financially fragile and socially frayed. I want to restore the greatness of our cities and towns by reconnecting these places with their historical development pattern. We need to bring back the basic principles of financial resiliency and the importance of community in the measure of prosperity.

I live in Central Minnesota with my wife, two daughters and two Samoyed dogs. I love winter, playing music, reading and the cheering for the Minnesota Twins.


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