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Cities Back from the Edge: New Life for Downtown Paperback – January 27, 2000

4.6 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

In Cities Back from the Edge, Gratz and Mintz offer a love song for the city...their volume, attractively packaged and richly illustrated, is really a cookbook for downtown revitalization. It turns out the most valuable contribution to urban understanding of the year isn't only a book, it's also a bumper sticker: Think globally, act locally."--The Wall Street Journal

Cities Back From the Edge was featured again in The New York Times. Frank Rich writes, "In their new book persuasively arguing for less grandiose, more indigenous urban renewal, Roberta Brandes Gratz and Norman Mintz write that a 'collection of visitor attractions does not add up to a city' whether those attractions are cultural centers, convention centers, aquariums, stadiums or enclosed malls."--The New York Times

"...provides a fascinating insight into the US Urban Design scenario..." (Urban Design, Autumn 2001)

From the Publisher

Many of America's downtowns are coming alive--again--through redevelopment to sustain growth into the 21st century. This book chronicles stories of how dozens of communities, downtowns, neighborhoods, main streets and big city business districts have revitalized buildings and businesses. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (January 27, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471361240
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471361244
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 10.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #714,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What a find! As a journalist whose community is undergoing redevelopment, I find that for me this book provides perspective and innovative thinking on the subject of how to make cities better. I don't mind the "preachiness" because it is a welcome antidote to the bland groupthink of so many planning "professionals" who sometimes do not seem to have one original thought among them. If you love cities -- especially if you love your city -- this is an inspiring, useful and informative book.
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Format: Hardcover
Gratz and Mintz bring some interesting perspective to the study of urban renewal. The professional consulting experience brought forth by the authoring team provides some actual know-how about solving urban problems. The book's major drawback is its almost remedial preachiness. Oftentimes, the narrative is interrupted by the authors' lessons - lessons that are frequently placed in italics so as to ensure the reader does not miss their point. Personally, I enjoy forming my own opinions and conclusions based on an author's text; this book does it for you. Overall, not a bad book, still fascinating and impressive in the authors' knowledge of actual city circumstances. The research behind this work is very good.
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Format: Paperback
Those are the twin themes permeating Cities: Back From The Edge, a take-no-prisoners diatribe against America's strategic misplacement and overapplication of asphalt and the "bigger is better" mentality of all too many commercial developers.

In this spirited, edgy work, Gratz and Mintz systematically explore how the Interstate System and its connecting routes helped weaken or destroy the commercial and residential viability of many U.S. downtowns, shifting the center of gravity in metropolitan areas and setting the stage for any number of revitalization plans founded on lack of imagination, the desire for a quick buck or graft. The authors describe some of these projects in detail and name real-life culprits while shining the spotlight on more far-sighted community activists, some of whom went on to develop micro solutions to their downtown dreams.

The authors remind us that, in downtown revitalization efforts, size does not really matter; that even the most fledgling business in a particular niche, operating alongside similar startups or in collaborative fashion, can successfully engage in mass customization, grow, and incrementally assist in the sustainable rebirth of a downtown, reinventing a unique critical mass that not only serves friend and neighbor but also draws tourism. "Cities" offers some wonderful quotes from these entrepreneurs as well as some pithy quotes from third parties ranging from H.L. Mencken to Winston Churchill to buttress their arguments.

A genuine bonus to this insightful work are the large number of crisp, black-and-white photographs of streetscapes, artist's studios and other manifestations of urban rebirth. Some have the decided look and feel of the first-rate photography to be seen in The New York Times before it went to color.

"Cities" remains on my bookshelf for reference and inspiration. I'm not done with it yet.
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Format: Hardcover
Gratz's second book is enriched by those who reached out to her after the publication of her first book on Cities. The book literally explodes with examples of how communities and cities are being revitalized. In a clear and readable presentation Gratz and Mintz describe how residents with a vision can achieve unbelievable results despite public policies and public policy decision makers who often are out of touch with the aspirations and needs of people. The book is a must read for anyone who cares about the future of our communities, our cities and our environment.
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Format: Paperback
In this text, Gratz and Mintz set out to establish guidelines and tips for city leaders, community activists, businesspeople, and regular citizens who seek to improve the status of their communities. They carefully outline what works, what does not work and why. Anyone interested in revilatizing downtown areas, setting up shop in a city, or running for office in an urban area should read this book as it will undoubtedly be helpful in creating a better understanding as to how cities can thrive in a new modern era.
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