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Providence, The Renaissance City
Francis J. Leazes, Jr., Mark T. Motte; J. Joseph Garrahy, intro.; Bruce Sundlun, intro.; Barnaby Evans, fwd.

2004 • 352 pp. 69 illus. 7 1/4 x 10"
Political Science & Government / Urban Studies / Rhode Island

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" . . . an insightful book that tells the story of how one city has rediscovered its assets in an exciting tale of central city revitalization." —Journal of the American Planning Associating

The authoritative account of one city’s dramatic rebirth.

Two decades ago, Providence, Rhode Island, was a gritty wasteland of neglected waterways, derelict railroad yards, and vast parking lots derided as a smudge on the road from New York to Cape Cod. Today, this historic New England city boasts a lively panorama of graceful river walks, revived commercial activity, and celebrated public arts—and has been named among the best places to live in America.

This breakthrough portrayal of urban rebirth reveals the ideas, opportunities, people, and projects behind the twenty-five-year Providence renaissance. Laying the historical, economic, and political groundwork, Francis J. Leazes Jr. and Mark T. Motte describe in detail the many disparate events that came together to transform Providence’s downtown into one of the nation’s most attractive urban environments at a time when other nearby former industrial centers continued to decay despite valiant renewal efforts. Through extensive interviews with elected officials, civil servants, entrepreneurs, and citizen activists, a complete picture takes shape for the first time of the myriad actors, complex goals, and intergovernmental cooperation involved in developing such lauded successes as the new Capital Center, the Providence Place mall, and the award-winning light sculpture, WaterFire.

Featuring dozens of illustrations, including many striking before-and-after images, the book reveals that the Providence renaissance is far more than mere smoke and mirrors perpetrated by flamboyant former mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci. Leazes and Motte employ the "garbage can" policymaking model to show how contingent coalitions, made up of public and private sector leadership, can adapt more effectively than a single grand redevelopment scheme or market-driven privatization alone. The evidence uncovers a true comeback of a city solidly remade, not merely a grimy urban skeleton with a postmodern veneer.

Meticulously documented and engagingly written, Providence, the Renaissance City is valuable reading for policymakers, administrators, political scientists, urban planners, and all concerned citizens of our nation’s cities.