Real estate developers are integral to understanding the split narratives of twentieth-century American urban history. Rather than divide the decline of downtowns and the rise of suburbs into separate tales, Sara Stevens uses the figure of the real estate developer to explore how cities found new urban and architectural forms through both suburbanization and urban renewal. Through nuanced discussions of Chicago, Kansas City, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Denver, Washington, D.C., and New York, Stevens explains how real estate developers, though often maligned, have shaped public policy through professional organizations, promoted investment security through design, and brought suburban models to downtowns. In this timely book, she considers how developers partnered with prominent architects, including Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and I. M. Pei, to sell their modern urban visions to the public. By viewing real estate developers as a critical link between capital and construction in prewar suburban development and postwar urban renewal, Stevens offers an original and enlightening look at the complex connections among suburbs and downtowns, policy, finance, and architectural history.
“A deep and scholarly study, Sara Stevens’s book identifies the real estate developer as the central protagonist responsible for shaping modern American cities. Sharply focused on the stories of three major developers, the book presents an oft-maligned actor whose ability to maneuver between capital, design, and policy deserves to be recognized as a significant force of urban transformation.” —Metropolis
“Sara Stevens' original approach fills a big gap in our interdisciplinary understanding of the history of the city and its morphology.”—Alice T. Friedman, Wellesley College
“The history of city building and architecture involves much more than the designs of great architects. Real estate developers are necessary and vital elements in the story, and Stevens superbly examines their role in the fashioning of the modern metropolis.”—Jon C. Teaford, Purdue University
“The ambitious figures that populate this fascinating study developed a powerful expertise that ranged from financing to politics to desire, enabling them to utterly reshape America’s urban and suburban landscapes.” —Sarah Whiting, Dean of the Rice School of Architecture