Investigation into the mechanisms that enabled successful post-World War II urban developments in the central business cores of four historic American cities



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During the last five decades, most American cities experienced an interesting evolution. In response to the decline of city centers in the early 1950s, which resulted from commercial expansion and suburban sprawl, many American cities successfully revitalized their urban cores in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In the 1980s, these cities realized the negative impact of too rapid downtown development which slowed the growth by setting growth management controls in their downtown plans. This evolution has been identified in the literature and stimulated this study. Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, and San Antonio are historic American cities with relatively high populations. These four cities implemented certain methods to manage their urban development. The overall goal of this study is to investigate the mechanisms that enabled positive developments to occur in the urban cores of the selected cities. Understanding how these cities improve and manage their urban development is the main part of this study. It provides invaluable lessons for many cities in achieving future successful developments. In order to document and analyze the research objectives, this study employed the historical method to get systematically collect and objectively evaluate urban development in four case studies. The research also employed descriptive analysis to assess conditions and impacts of development in four cities by comparing the similarities and differences of the mechanisms employed among the four. The findings of this study indicate that the role and type of governmental leadership in successfully implementing planning and development are crucial. In addition, the role of community or private organizations as control and advisory groups is significant. This study also finds that the vision, passion and long commitment of enlightened professionals provide great influence in promoting imaginative and long ranging projects. Finally, the balanced role of historic preservation is important in maintaining the character of the city as well as counterbalancing the need to grow.