Legacy Cities: Continuity and Change Amid Decline and Revival, by J. Rosie Tighe and Stephanie Ryberg-Webster (eds.), Pittsburgh, PA, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019
Reviewed by: Dennis E. Gale, Stanford University
Legacy (a.k.a. Rust Belt) cities are former centers of industry now suffering from physical and economic decline and social instability. Those in the U.S. are located primarily in the Northeastern and Midwestern regions and include Newark, Buffalo, Detroit, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis. This book, however, focuses on Cleveland and 21 of its 23 articles were written by contributors with a current or former affiliation with Cleveland State University. Two others are associated with the University of Texas, Austin. Among the topics covered in Part One are the economic and fiscal issues associated with legacy cities, as well as housing, historic preservation, sustainability, and regional intergovernmental relations. Part Two features articles on Cleveland’s neighborhood racial profiles, race and policing, neighborhood main streets, and housing market dynamics. Part Three offers an ameliorative perspective, including the role of arts in the city’s revival, the restoration and re-branding of the Cuyahoga River, and efforts to reform the fragmented regional governing structure. The book will probably find an audience among planners, architects, developers, and real estate specialists, including students in those fields. As a classroom text, it offers a fairly comprehensive case study of the dilemmas of Rust Belt urbanism. Despite Cleveland’s many attractions, the city grapples with enormous liabilities, most of which are centered in the viability of its economy. Competing with several other heartland cities, much less its own metropolitan area suburbs, it contends with forbidding realities. Cleveland’s original locational advantages — its Great Lakes port, access to raw materials, and transportation linkages via its intercontinental rail connections — no longer serve the city as they once did. As de-industrialization and globalization have transformed much of the nation’s economy, one-time manufacturing centers struggle to reinvent a viable economic base.
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