How to Win at the 'Planning Game'

Julia Vitullo-Martin reviews Alexander Garvin's new book, "The Planning Game," which examines four case studies for lessons on how shrewd investments in the public realm can revitalize a city.

"Not just how you build something but also how you revitalize a city are the questions at the heart of Alexander Garvin's "The Planning Game: Lessons From Great Cities. Mr. Garvin—himself a planner, architect and former New York City official—not only explains how public planning works but considers in depth four examples of successful urban renewal: New York in the age of Moses; Paris in the late 19th century; Chicago in the early years of the 20th; and Philadelphia during the postwar transformation."

"The author chose these four, an unusual grouping, because all won the planning game, he argues, by devoting their efforts to the one thing they had under control, the public realm," explains Vitullo-Martin. "Investing in 'our common property,' he argues, makes it easier and cheaper to do business while improving the quality of life for residents."

Garvin examines the "master" marketing deployed by Georges-Eugène Haussmann, Robert Moses, Edmund Bacon and Daniel Burnham, and finds "a universal principle: To gain public acceptance, plans and their accompanying public investment must be part of a compelling vision and an agreed-upon public agenda."

Full Story: How to Build a Better City

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