The Paradox of Urban Revitalization
Progress and Poverty in America's Postindustrial Era
by Howard Gillette Jr.
30 b/w, 2 maps, 3 tables
In the twenty-first century, cities in the United States that had suffered most the shift to a postindustrial era entered a period widely proclaimed as an urban renaissance. From Detroit to Newark to Oakland and elsewhere commentators saw cities rising again. Yet revitalization generated a second urban crisis marked by growing inequality and civil unrest reminiscent of the upheavals associated with the first urban crisis in the mid-twentieth century. The urban poor and residents of color have remained very much at a disadvantage in the face of racially biased capital investments, narrowing options for affordable housing, and mass incarceration. In profiling nine cities grappling with challenges of the twenty-first century, author Howard Gillette, Jr. evaluates the uneven efforts to secure racial and class equity as city fortunes have risen. Charting the tension between the practice of corporate subsidy and efforts to assure social justice, The Paradox of Urban Revitalization assesses the course of urban politics and policy over the past half century, before the COVID-19 pandemic upended everything, and details prospects for achieving greater equity in the years ahead.
"Gillette superbly draws a set of nine urban portraits, cities addressing the tensions between economic development, equity, and community engagement...[C]ities can and should do more than what they are doing to balance the three goals of equity, economic development, and community engagement. They can benefit from implementation lessons described in this book. Howard Gillette has helped us understand the limits of what can be accomplished at the metropolitan level to resolve tensions between these three goals."—Housing Studies
"[A] welcome addition to canonical urban planning history and theory...Gillette shows how local government policymaking can make a difference and that there are ways—albeit imperfect—to counter growth machine politics of corporate subsidies and creative-class hangouts. Gillette advances that a paradox of 'progress' is grinding poverty and dispossession. Contemporary city leaders must intentionally harness urban growth toward more equitable development. Experts and non-experts alike have much to learn from that frame."—Journal of the American Planning Association
"Howard Gillette, Jr. is one of our most important American urban historians. Here he digs his razor sharp analytical and empirical teeth into understanding the ‘new urban crisis’ of profoundly uneven economic growth. He centers much of his analysis on local politics and policies, which are central to today’s urban inequality drama, yet he carefully embeds his modern-day analysis within a historic context of old urban renewal patterns and inequitable outcomes. This careful historical approach makes clear that today’s urban inequalities and uprisings are part of a consistent pattern of past urban development and policy pursuits. The Paradox of Urban Revitalization is a must read for those interested in urban America and its persistent racial inequality."—Derek Hyra, American University
"The Paradox of Urban Revitalization provides an overview of the technical and political complexities of urban development, supplying the reader, and particularly students, with critical insights into the aspirations and challenges of activating the benefits of growth together with the reparative assets of equity and inclusion."—Toni Griffin, Harvard University
"In The Paradox of Urban Revitalization, Gillette brilliantly explores the stubborn linkage between poverty and progress, as well as the failure of inclusive development. Although cities have instituted various strategies to tackle racial inequities, he finds that even the ones he considers adopting the best programs are falling short. Gillette concludes that without a fundamental transformation of the prevailing political economy of racial capitalism, local efforts will not be enough to close the wealth gap."—Edward Muller, University of Pittsburgh