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Chapter Summary

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Chapter eight from the book The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City by Alan Ehrenhalt deals with creating downtowns in Sun Belt area, inspired by the examples of older cities. The author explains such a need  on the economical score , claiming that companies were more likely located in metropolises with city centers. Phoenix seems to be the most curious case of all.

Ehrenhalt gives an overview of the city history, and one of the highlights is that Phoenix started developing rapidly only in 1940’s, and nowadays it is a metropolis with over 4.5 million residents. Advancement of house types and decentralized growth of the city are also pointed out. The city council tried to solve this problem; the failed attempts included the division of the city into villages and creation of Arizona Center. The positive experience of Charlotte contrasts with the Phoenix’s story, although even the former has problems in retail industry within its modern downtown.

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Returning to Phoenix, the author mentions that its vivid sport life with baseball and basketball teams might have been an attraction for enlivening of the city’s center, but these and other entertainment-oriented measures brought no success. After that it was finally realized that the center of the city lacked cohesion, and in order to make it united one needed people to reside there. Housing endeavors turned out to be better in plans than in reality, but a new light-rail transit system proved its success. Students were also involved in development of downtown, as a new campus of Arizona State University was built in the city center. There were experimental five-story apartment buildings that finally managed to bring people to central Phoenix. Parking problem still remains, but in general metropolitan authorities are very positive about the future of the city’s downtown, which shouldn’t be worse than its counterparts all around America, but with its unique spirit.

Chapter eight, dedicated to Phoenix, explores its long way of acquiring an active and lively downtown. The author resorts to the city-planning past of the city and compares it with Charlotte. Concluding his story, Ehrenhalt expresses positive prospects about Phoenix’s downtown.

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