America’s Waterfront Revival:
Port Authorities and Urban Redevelopment
Since the early years of the twentieth century, public authorities have been providing an enormous share of the public infrastructure in the United States and have shaped our urban environment in powerful ways. Politicians have continued to create new public authorities, but many older ones remain influential, adapting to ever-changing economic trends, technologies, and user demands by entering new lines of business. Among the authorities that have continued to change and have remained relevant are many of the nation's industrial-era port authorities, including the Tampa Port Authority, the Port of San Francisco, the Port of San Diego, and the Delaware River Port Authority.
Despite their unique histories, markets, and geographic locations, these four ports have many similarities. Most important, as globalization and technological change led to declines in shipping, they all evolved from single-purpose maritime cargo-handling operations into diversified business organizations focused on waterfront revitalization. All four ports became deeply involved in real estate development in support of nontraditional maritime and nonmaritime public and commercial uses.
In America's Waterfront Revival, Peter Hendee Brown examines the experiences of these four port authorities, considering three important questions. First, how did external and internal forces encourage or impede these authorities as they engaged in new functions? How did the port authorities transform themselves as organizations in order to implement waterfront redevelopment? Do public authorities change as institutions when they diversify into new functional areas and, if so, do abstract theoretical models of public authorities adequately account for this institutional evolution?
Drawing on a wide range of sources, including enabling legislation, annual reports, financial statements, strategic business plans, land use plans, audits, media accounts, and interviews, this book delivers significant new findings on the opportunities and challenges existing authorities face when they engage in new functions.
"Brown’s skillful and well-documented book succeeds both as a work of scholarship and a provocative story.
Planning professors will find Brown’s book an excellent reader for introducing the multitude of political facets that determine the success or failure of urban development institutions.
Equally arresting is his description of the controversies and occasional scandals that plagued each port and how the conflicts of interest of board members undermined their political autonomy.
Overall, I found Brown’s book to be one of the most interesting windows I have found in the planning literature for understanding how public authorities evolve over time and how their powers and ability to perform are impacted by legislation, board composition, political independence, labor unions, economic trends, and increasing diversity of their city’s constituents."
— Richard Peiser, Harvard Graduate School of Design
Journal of the American Planning Association (JAPA)
Summer 2011, Vol. 77, No. 3
"This is really a very impressive book — accessible, thorough, deep and compelling. Brown’s research and insights should prove very useful to anyone interested in advancing complex urban projects."
— James Corner, Founder and Director, James Corner Field Operations
Designer of New York’s Highline
"Brown’s book is a very informed, well-crafted, and highly inspiring volume. Its focus on institutions and policy processes deepens the urban planning literature on waterfront regeneration. Written in a highly readable style, I highly recommend it for readers (both academic and applied audiences) interested in the making and continued evolution American waterfront development."
— Markus Hesse, University of Luxembourg
2013, Vol. 34, No. 6, 887–892
"These stories provide an excellent addition to earlier publications on urban waterfronts. The subtext of Brown’s accounts of the varied forces that both obstructed and allowed physical, economic, and institutional change will be of particular interest to business historians, public officers and administrators, planners, developers, and private investors. There are no clear winners among the four cities and their authorities. Rather, Brown shows that their combined experiences offer lessons to today’s practitioners. We can only hope that, with time, the lessons propounded by Brown can be profitably used."
— Ann L. Buttenwieser, Columbia University School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.
Business History Review
2010, Vol. 84, No. 1, 189-191
"America's Waterfront Revival is a well-written, well-edited and well-illustrated discussion of redevelopment concepts, strategies and cases. Over thirty photographs and around sixteen maps, tables, charts and diagrams supplement the text to good effect, and the four case studies are detailed and well-researched. For any scholar of urban or port redevelopment, Peter Hendee Brown's America's Waterfront Revival represents a valuable addition to the existing body of literature."
— Anthony K.C. Beresford, Cardiff University
International Journal of Maritime History
2009, 21: 398
"Brown’s text will be of interest to those working in or with public port authorities, and to those who are keen to better understand the public sector’s complex role in waterfront development. The book concludes with a series of ten helpful lessons, amongst them the need to keep operations and deal-making transparent, and to develop master plans that are long-term and not focused on quick and immediate returns. Brown certainly fills an important gap in the literature on waterfront development with this book."
— James T. White, University of British Columbia
Canadian Journal of Urban Research (CJUR)
"Brown’s skillful and well-documented book succeeds both as a work of scholarship and a provocative story.”
“America's Waterfront Revival is a well-written, well-edited and well-illustrated discussion of redevelopment concepts, strategies and cases. “
“Overall, I found Brown’s book to be one of the most interesting windows I have found in the planning literature for understanding how public authorities evolve over time and how their powers and ability to perform are impacted by legislation, board composition, political independence, labor unions, economic trends, and increasing diversity of their city’s constituents."
"America's Waterfront Revival is a fascinating account of the evolving role of port authorities in the United States.”
“Brown certainly fills an important gap in the literature on waterfront development with this book." “
“In an era in which we are again focused on infrastructure needs, this is a must read for those interested in the future role of port authorities."
"This is really a very impressive book — accessible, thorough, deep, and compelling.”
“Brown's research and insights should prove very useful to anyone interested in advancing complex urban projects."
"An accessible and fascinating account of the expanding impact of U.S. port authorities on the urban fabric. Lively prose, excellent maps, and high quality photographs make this a book an enjoyable, as well as informative, read."
“Anyone who has read The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York and enjoyed learning how New York was redeveloped under Moses' control will appreciate the broader view offers by looking at four ports with four distinct stories. This book is extremely relevant to work happening today across the country.”
“Excellent narrative on the historical complexities of public private partnership. A must read for aspiring urban planners, developers and public policy aficionados!”
“Peter Brown offers a clear and unbiased look at the challenges facing four different port authorities as they adapt to forces in the economy that wean them away from traditional maritime activities and push them towards waterfront revitalization.”
“Brown provides behind-the-scenes insights, and gleans ten lessons from his analysis for port commissioners and administrators, politicians, planners and other design professional, developers and urban scholars.”
"Brown’s book is a very informed, well-crafted, and highly inspiring volume. I have the perspective of having worked on the waterfront in San Francisco, an ILWU job, when I was in college in the late sixties, then having worked for the Port of San Francisco for almost twenty years beginning in 1982. I lived the changes that Peter Brown describes in his book, America's Waterfront Revival. What caused the Port of San Francisco and other ports to change during this period after years of stability? How did the changes in the industry forever change how the ports operated, were managed, and how they related to their larger communities? It is all there, in this book that examines changes at four ports over four decades. It is a must read for those involved in the Port industry.”