Most Successful Urban Planning - Ever?

Public Servant Blog dares to compile a completely subjective list of the Top 20 Urban Planning Successes of All Time, with selections ranging from the obvious (Amsterdam) to the less so (Marimont, Ohio). See if you agree.

Amsterdam tops the list, and the Plan of Philadelphia is #20. In between, there are a number of Garden City-influenced suburbs and the inevitable High Line. Marimont, Ohio is #12:

"When Thomas J. Emery died in 1906, his widow, Mary Emery, undertook to erect a new town intended to serve as a national exemplar for suburban American and a permanent monument to her husband's memory. Thus, as one of the first planned communities in the United States, Mariemont is well-known for its charming historic architecture, lush foliage, award-winning schools and friendly, community-minded residents."

Full Story: Top 20 Urban Planning Successes of All Time



Billerica, MA ?!!! Number 2?! Please!!

Obviously whomever compiled these rankings does not seem to care about their credibility. I grew up in an adjacent town to Billerica, have a Master's degree in Urban Planning, and just today returned from the number 1 city on the list, Amsterdam. Billerica absolutely does not deserve to be ranked number 2 on the list!

Yes Billerica does have a commuter rail station. There is however virtually no TOD surrounding the station, and the station itself is basically a park & ride in middle of nowhere. Billerica previously had additional passenger rail service through the center and southern parts of the town until 1933. Also Billerica had interurban streetcar service to Boston & Lowell up until 1930. Cities in Germany in Switzerland today commonly have the abundant rail service Billerica had in the 1920s.

Billerica today is plagued with cul de sacs and large lot single family zoning. It could hardly be considered a walker's paradise. Route 3 bisects the town and Billerica is home to numerous office parks adjacent to the highway. Virtually the only way to access these office parks is via an automobile.

Billerica is also home to what could be considered the most unattractive commercial strip in Greater Boston, Route 3A. Along 3A you'll find dead malls, closed car dealerships, adult strip clubs, and numerous low budget tanning and hair salons. These establishments hardly comprise the ingredients of a thriving and sustainable business district.

Whomever created this blog needs to go back and do a little bit more in depth research before boldly proclaiming a place such as Billerica, MA as the number 2 overall best planned city in the world!


I'd be curious where Greenbelt, MD, fell in among her considerations. I've worked within Greenbelt -- just across the street from its original planned area -- for five years now and love walking through its park & eating at the center.

Inspired by Radburn, NJ: it has an interesting legacy among the New Deal projects & continues its co-op community programs, with affordable housing, a diverse community, great recreation, walkability, bus/rail access, etc... all while remaining a quiet suburb not forbidding to cars. If all suburbs were like Old Greenbelt, I don't think "suburbia" would be nearly as dirty of a word.


This is a pretty absurd list. Where's Barcelona's Eixample? Haussman's Boulevards? Central Park might be smaller than Forest Park, but is much better at connecting to it's surrounding city. For that matter, what about NYC's flatiron blocks? Does Jefferson's grid, effectively creating a rational overlay for the western US count as urban planning? What about Savannah, Georgia?? I love the project, but in what definition of Urban Planning does the High Line fall? And of course I know the U.S. best; there must be a bevy of successes around the world.

Don't try to score cool points by finding obscure examples. Your quickest fix to the article is to fix the title.


"Top 20 Urban Planning Successes That Are On My Mind Right Now"

I agree with Tim. This is a very compelling list of planning successes, but the "of all time" suggests and temporal and geographic range that are woefully underrepresented. "Of all time" would probably consider the sewage systems of Mohenjo-Daro and at least one of China's many, many ancient examples of thoughtful planning.

Otherwise your list is interesting and has lots of places I want to learn more about. So for that, I appreciate the post.

Successful Urban Planning

Metropolitan Atlanta's Chattahoochee River Corridor Plan must rank among the top urban planning successes of all time in the U.S. Prepared by the then-new Atlanta Regional Commission in 1971, the 48 mile long, approximately mile-wide corridor plan was innovative in several significant ways. (1) Metropolitan-level planning, backed by State legislation, established mandatory land use regulations on private properties, with a combination of (2) local government and metro-level administration. (3) The Plan introduced for the first time in the southern U.S., environmentally-based land use regulations, designed to protect the region's primary water supply and (4) protect the aesthetics of the river corridor. The Plan is (5) still being administered as originally intended; (6) subsequent federal and State purchases created a National Recreation area and State Parks along the corridor. (7) The Corridor and plan were extended down river about 100 miles southwest of Atlanta in the late 1990's (I am uncertain about the date).

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