By Jerry Mitchell
Examines the impression of commercial development districts at the caliber of latest civic existence .
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Additional resources for Business Improvement Districts and the Shape of American Cities
Perhaps most important, the construction of parking lots and roads required the demolition of houses, apartments, and small businesses, as well as the complete destruction of main streets in small towns, further depleting the very factors that made up a vibrant city. If anything, the growth of the automobile industry hastened the demise of the business districts. Solution 2: Auto Separation. A different tack was to divide the spheres in which cars and pedestrians existed. One technique was to build skywalk systems and underground concourses that could keep cars and people away from each other.
73 This process was helped along by a larger shift in American society from a manufacturing to a paper economy. To the benefit of cities, the absence of belching industrial behemoths made them cleaner and less dreary, yet the service and information sectors were mobile and could be located almost anywhere, thereby leading families and businesses to disperse. In the new American landscape, there was little need for jobs or housing to be tied to a particular place. The dream of Frank Lloyd Wright was approaching reality.
37 The energy of the City Beautiful lasted a couple of decades, yet the movement’s purposes and methods left an imprint of relevance for BIDs today. First, the idea that perception matters—that the way things look will affect their use and form an overall impression among citizens—has become an obsession for BIDs, as well as for an ever expanding collection of historical preservation agencies and community development groups. Second, the passage of special state legislation permitting the formation of unique publicprivate partnerships during the City Beautiful is akin to the process leading to the creation of BIDs and other contemporary quasi-government development corporations.