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New Book — The Heart of the City: Creating Vibrant Downtowns for a New Century by Alexander Garvin

May 6, 2019 Books, Featured Comments Off on New Book — The Heart of the City: Creating Vibrant Downtowns for a New Century by Alexander Garvin

Downtowns are often critical to the perception & success of entire regions, but making them vibrant isn’t always easy.

Downtowns are more than economic engines: they are repositories of knowledge and culture and generators of new ideas, technology, and ventures. They are the heart of the city that drives its future. If we are to have healthy downtowns, we need to understand what downtown is all about; how and why some American downtowns never stopped thriving (such as San Jose and Houston), some have been in decline for half a century (including Detroit and St. Louis), and still others are resurging after temporary decline (many, including Lower Manhattan and Los Angeles). The downtowns that are prospering are those that more easily adapt to changing needs and lifestyles.

In The Heart of the City, distinguished urban planner Alexander Garvin shares lessons on how to plan for a mix of housing, businesses, and attractions; enhance the public realm; improve mobility; and successfully manage downtown services. Garvin opens the book with diagnoses of downtowns across the United States, including the people, businesses, institutions, and public agencies implementing changes. In a review of prescriptions and treatments for any downtown, Garvin shares brief accounts—of both successes and failures—of what individuals with very different objectives have done to change their downtowns. The final chapters look at what is possible for downtowns in the future, closing with suggested national, state, and local legislation to create standard downtown business improvement districts to better manage downtowns.

This book will help public officials, civic organizations, downtown business property owners, and people who care about cities learn from successful recent actions in downtowns across the country, and expand opportunities facing their downtown. Garvin provides recommendations for continuing actions to help any downtown thrive, ensuring a prosperous and thrilling future for the 21st-century American city. (Island Press)

Here are the eight chapters from the contents.

Chapter 1: What is Downtown?
Chapter 2: Where is Downtown?
Chapter 3: How and Why Downtown America is Changing
Chapter 4. People Who Are Changing Downtown
Chapter 5. Organizations that are Changing Downtown
Chapter 6. Lessons for Any Downtown
Chapter 7. Emerging 21st Century Downtowns
Chapter 8. Creating Vibrant Downtowns for a New Generation

St. Louis is mentioned in two chapters: How and Why Downtown America is Changing & Lessons for Any Downtown.

In November 2016 I posted about another book by Alexander Garvin: What Makes A Great City

— Steve Patterson

 

 

New Book — St. Louis State Hospital: A 150-Year Journey Toward Hope by Amanda Hunyar

April 19, 2019 Books, Featured, History/Preservation Comments Off on New Book — St. Louis State Hospital: A 150-Year Journey Toward Hope by Amanda Hunyar

In my 28+ years in St. Louis I’ve been in many buildings that interest me. One I haven’t seen inside of is the St. Louis State Hospital on Arsenal. It and the grounds have changed considerably in my decades here.

A few hardcover book from local publisher Reedy Press gives readers a greater understanding:

While the St. Louis State Hospital dome has loomed over the St. Louis skyline for 150 years, the goings-on behind the closed doors of this mysterious complex of South City buildings has been the subject of speculation and curiosity for generations. This fascinating book takes readers beyond the gates on Arsenal and into an institution’s unique history.

It was through those gates in 1869 that 127 patients suffering from mental illnesses would pass to seek recovery through compassionate care. This richly illustrated volume presents their stories through a timeline of the hospital’s history and gives an understanding of what life was like for these vulnerable, often poor and disenfranchised patients. Included are photos and anecdotes of weekly dances in the fifth-floor ballroom, card game parties, and long walks to newly opened Tower Grove Park. Straight from the carefully curated archives are the records of traditional lobotomies, experimental drug therapies, and electric shock—all prevalent treatments of their time.

Author Amanda Hunyar takes readers behind the scenes and through the history of the iconic building with a complex tale to tell. Once the third largest hospital in St. Louis, and a place of healing and hope for thousands, its stories from generations past are finally ready to be shared. Even those with merely a passing understanding of its buildings can now come to appreciate its importance in the history of our region. (Reedy Press)

This new book is by Amanda Hunyar. I’ve loved flipping through the photo-filled pages.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Book — St. Louis Sound: An Illustrated Timeline by Steve Pick with Amanda E. Doyle

March 15, 2019 Books, Featured, History/Preservation, Popular Culture Comments Off on New Book — St. Louis Sound: An Illustrated Timeline by Steve Pick with Amanda E. Doyle

I like music — I have a decent music collection (digital & vinyl), but I’ve never been to a concert. Well, I did see & hear Bonnie Raitt and many others at the New Orleans Jazz Fest in 2004. Though I’ve lived in St  Louis for 28+ years, I haven’t participated in the local music scene other than hearing the Bosman Twins in 1990 and Kim Massie at a few events.

So when I received the new book St  Louis Sound: An Illustrated Timeline I wasn’t sure I’d find anything of interest to write about. Boy was I wrong.

Let’s start with the publisher’s description:

From the French fiddlers of the fur trading days to the rock and hip hop icons of the present millennium, St. Louis has been a town rich in musical history. Though it has rarely been cited as a center of any scene, any area that has been home to Chuck Berry, Miles Davis, Ike & Tina Turner, Grant Green, Pavlov’s Dog, Uncle Tupelo, Nelly, and Pokey LaFarge has clearly deserved more attention. This book tells the story of music in St. Louis, from the symphonic to the singer/songwriter, from the radio stations that propelled it to the fanzines that documented it, from the musicians who left here for greater fame to those who stayed and made this town more vibrant. This is the first time that all the tributaries of the great St. Louis river of song have been covered in one place; classical, jazz, blues, r&b, rock’n’roll, country, hip hop, and more.

I’ve learned so much flipping through the photo-filled pages. For example, I’m a huge fan of Missy Elliott’s 1997 song The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly).  If you don’t know it you can see the creative video here. Anyway, I’d long thought the chorus included a sample of an older song, but I’d never researched it. Then on the page after the venue Blueberry Hill was the entry on Kinloch-native Ann Peebles. It mentions she co-wrote her 1973 hit “I can’t stand the rain.” To Wikipedia and YouTube I went.

One comment on YouTube nailed it — that she sounds like a female version of Al Green. A very high compliment! The book mentions she worked with Green’s producer, Willie Mitchell. Online I learned about a 1978 disco cover by Eruption and a 1984 cover by the Tina Turner on her Private Dancer album. Peebles had previously worked with Oliver Sain (1932-2003), best known for Soul Serenade (YouTube). I also learned Sain had a recording studio in the 1905 building at 4521 Natural Bridge. Ann Peebles retired following a stroke.

I can’t think of another book that has brought me so many hours of joy as I combed through the intense level of detail, looking up names & songs on YouTube & Wikipedia, Googling venues to get addresses to look up.

If you’re into St. Louis and/or its music this book should interest you. Released today, it’s available via Left Bank Books, Amazon, etc.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Book — ‘Life After Carbon: The Next Global Transformation of Cities’ by Peter Plastrik and John Cleveland

December 21, 2018 Books, Environment, Featured Comments Off on New Book — ‘Life After Carbon: The Next Global Transformation of Cities’ by Peter Plastrik and John Cleveland

It usually takes me weeks/months to post about new books I receive, but another book arrived earlier in the week — just when I needed a subject for today.

The future of our cities is not what it used to be. The modern-city model that took hold globally in the twentieth century has outlived its usefulness. It cannot solve the problems it helped to create—especially global warming. Fortunately, a new model for urban development is emerging in cities to aggressively tackle the realities of climate change. It transforms the way cities design and use physical space, generate economic wealth, consume and dispose of resources, exploit and sustain the natural ecosystems, and prepare for the future.

In Life After Carbon, urban sustainability consultants Pete Plastrik and John Cleveland assemble this global pattern of urban reinvention from the stories of 25 “innovation lab” cities across the globe—from Copenhagen to Melbourne. A city innovation lab is the entire city—the complex, messy, real urban world where innovations must work. It is a city in which government, business, and community leaders take to heart the challenge of climate change and converge on the radical changes that are necessary. They free downtowns from cars, turn buildings into renewable-energy power plants, re-nature entire neighborhoods, incubate growing numbers of clean-energy and smart-tech companies, convert waste to energy, and much more. Plastrik and Cleveland show that four transformational ideas are driving urban climate innovation around the world, in practice, not just in theory: carbon-free advantage, efficient abundance, nature’s benefits, and adaptive futures. And these ideas are thriving in markets, professions, consumer trends, community movements, and “higher” levels of government that enable cities.

Life After Carbon presents the new ideas that are replacing the pillars of the modern-city model, converting climate disaster into urban opportunity, and shaping the next transformation of cities worldwide. It will inspire anyone who cares about the future of our cities, and help them to map a sustainable path forward. (Island Press)

The primary chapters are divided into three parts:

Part I: On the Innovation Pathway

  • Innovation Proliferation
  • Urban Climate Innovation Laboratories
  • Goals, Systems, Clusters, and Waves
  • Making a Better City
  • The Rebel Alliance

Part II: Toward Global Urban Transformation

  • The Power of Transformational Ideas
  • Carbon-Free Advantage
  • Efficient Abundance
  • Nature’s Benefits
  • Adaptive Capacities

Part III: Challenges of Urban Evolution

  • The Edge of City Climate Innovation
  • Assembly Required
  • The Next Urban Operating System
  • Going Global

Here’s a three and a half minute video from their website:

I do think cities that resist changing will suffer as the next century nears, whereas those that innovate and adapt will fare better.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Book — A Manifesto for Social Progress: Ideas for a Better Society by Marc Fleurbaey

December 17, 2018 Books, Featured Comments Off on New Book — A Manifesto for Social Progress: Ideas for a Better Society by Marc Fleurbaey

I have one last book on my desk to post about as 2018 is coming to an end: A Manifesto for Social Progress: Ideas for a Better Society by Marc Fleurbaey:

At this time when many have lost hope amidst conflicts, terrorism, environmental destruction, economic inequality and the breakdown of democracy, this beautifully written book outlines how to rethink and reform our key institutions – markets, corporations, welfare policies, democratic processes and transnational governance – to create better societies based on core principles of human dignity, sustainability, and justice. This new vision is based on the findings of over 300 social scientists involved in the collaborative, interdisciplinary International Panel on Social Progress. Relying on state-of-the-art scholarship, these social scientists reviewed the desirability and possibility of all relevant forms of long-term social change, explored current challenges, and synthesized their knowledge on the principles, possibilities, and methods for improving the main institutions of modern societies. Their common finding is that a better society is indeed possible, its contours can be broadly described, and all we need is to gather forces toward realizing this vision. (Cambridge University Press)

This is an academic book, not a quick read or a pretty coffee table book. However, serious topics often require academics to offer solutions to societies big problems.

The following is a list of the 8 chapters from the two sections:

Part I: Sources of Worry, Reasons for Hope:

1. Global Successes and Looming Catastrophes

2. Globalization and Technology: Choices and Contingencies

3. The Expanding Circle of Respect and Dignity

4. The Big Challenge

Part II: Acting for Social Progress

5. In Search of a New “Third Way”

6. Reforming Capitalism

7. From the Welfare State to the Emancipating State

8. From Polaritics to Politics

Chapter 6, Reforming Capitalism, is a favorite topic of mine. I began scanning this chapter last night, but was too tired to absorb much. Will need to try again when I’m more alert.

— Steve Patterson

 

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