Rebuilding Community in the Age of Sprawl
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 An eloquent, convincing argument for the preservation of city centers in a time of ex- and suburbanization. Moe (The Last Full Measure, 1993) is a Civil War historian and president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation; Wilkie is a former White House speechwriter. Their talents mesh well in this survey/sermon, which warns of the dangers of ``losing the physical manifestations of our history--not just the great monuments but also the significant structures and entire neighborhoods that anchor our communities.'' That loss has many causes, among them white flight and the relocation of downtown businesses to far-flung peripheries. When this happens, assert the authors, and when city residents' income drops with the evaporation of economic enterprise, the result is inevitably ``a perpetual slum.'' Such latter-day slums have been a long time in the building, but the authors lay particular blame on the legendary urban planner and superhighway builder Robert Moses, who ``became the nation's most consulted expert on how to tear historic sections of cities apart to accommodate the automobile.'' The perspective of Moe and Wilkie is resolutely urban and East Coast, but in advancing their call for an intelligent, admittedly expensive nationwide program of inner-city restoration, they also look westward to Denver and Portland, Ore., where, despite some Moses-era setbacks, downtowns have grown newly friendly to pedestrians and respectful of history. The authors also sound alarms over the likely fate of eastern cities like Pittsburgh, which, despite a massive commitment to downtown revitalization, has lost jobs and businesses and faces an ever-aging population as younger residents move to suburban sanctuaries. A thoughtful book that merits both a wide audience and a place alongside the work of Jane Jacobs and Lewis Mumford.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-8050-4368-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1997


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