The Heart of the City: Creating Vibrant Downtowns for a New Century


6″ x 9″, softcover, 264 pages, Island Press.

SKU: CHC001 Category:


In The Heart of the City: Creating Vibrant Downtowns for a New Century, author and urban planner Alexander Graven explores why some downtowns are stagnant or in decline while others are thriving.

Drawing on nearly five decades of experience studying and working in America’s cities, Garvin identifies shared elements of great downtowns, offers lessons from successful and failed projects, and lays out concrete recommendations to help every downtown thrive.

Unlike Garvin’s earlier work, this book focuses specifically on the economic and cultural heart of the city — the downtown. It will help public officials, downtown leaders, and others learn from successful recent actions across the country, and expand the opportunities facing their downtowns.

Table of Contents

  1. What is Downtown?
  2. Where is Downtown?
  3. How and Why Downtown America is Changing
  4. People Who Are Changing Downtown
  5. Organizations that are Changing Downtown
  6. Lessons for Any Downtown
  7. Emerging 21st Century Downtowns
  8. Creating Vibrant Downtowns for a New Generation

About the Author

Alexander Garvin has combined a career in urban planning and real estate with teaching, architecture, and public service. He is currently President and CEO of AGA Public Realm Strategists, Inc., a planning and design firm in New York City that is responsible for the initial master plans for the Atlanta BeltLine, Tessera (a 700-acre new community outside Austin), and Hinton Park in Collierville, Tennessee.


Read the Preface


The Heart of the City: Creating Vibrant Downtowns for a New Century is guaranteed. If you are not 100% satisfied, you may return it within 30 days for a full refund.


“Heavily informed by examples…The Heart of the City is practical, packed with information, and a reminder that ‘Downtowns are unable to change anything. People change downtowns.’”
— Civil Engineering

“Alex Garvin looks at cities with a clearer eye than any other planner in America. He loves cities, but I think he loves empirical observation even more. This book is a paean to downtown, driven not by dogma but by a realistic, practical sensibility and an understanding of how cities really work, seasoned with passion and a lifetime of knowledge.”
— Paul Goldberger,
Contributing Editor, Vanity Fair

“Alex Garvin is one of the country’s most knowledgeable urban planners. His insights, based on more than half a century’s experience, are essential for understanding the potential of civic space and urban development going forward.”
— Deborah Berke,
Dean, Yale School of Architecture