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Journal of Policy History

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Urban planning, Cities and towns, Cities and towns -- United States -- History -- 20th century


Downtown planning since World War II has been based on constantly changing assumptions about the nature of central business districts. From 1945 to 1955, downtown was seen as the city's unitary center, and the focus of planning activity was the improvement of downtown access and circulation. Between 1955 and 1965, downtown became a declining activity center and failing real estate market; planners and business groups fought decline and competition from the suburbs through programs like urban renewal. In the decade after 1965, a reaction against urban renewal led to a new conception of downtown as a set of distinct functional subdistricts, each needing particularized treatment. From 1975 to 1985, downtown was reconceptualized as a "theme park" to serve tourists, conventioneers, and suburbanites. Since 1985, planners have seen downtown as a financial and administrative command post dedicated to power, money, and technology.


This is the publisher's final PDF. Article appears in Journal of Policy History ( and is Copyright 1993 Cambridge University Press.



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